I’m really good at losing things, but not always the right things; for example today I lost my favourite blue jumper in town… I have rung a couple of places I went to but they haven’t got it… I’ll drop in to the veg shop and see if I left it there while I was juggling courgettes and avocados (not literally) and W.H. Smiths where I and the man on the next self-scan check out became increasingly annoyed at the wretched machine – we the customers who buy things and spend money and make profit for the shop, hate self-scan – we like people, actual people!
I’m deviating… some things are good to lose, for example weight… I don’t seem to be having much luck on that, maybe the courgettes and avocados will help. For me as a writer, the greatest thing I want to lose is unnecessary words. When I am actually writing, putting things down on paper, I almost go onto an automatic setting, where I’m not actually consciously thinking of what I’m writing, it’s just the story going down, and I describe every last thing, every last action, every last word that my characters say. I know I do this and I go through afterwards and winnow out all the chaff, and knock the remainder into some sort of shape before settling down to edit it properly.
It’s quite difficult to be objective and not to leave favourite bits in because I like them for some reason; I have to try to put myself into the place and mind of my reader – does it make sense, does it flow, is it gripping, and is it boring – boring is the worst thing a book can be! A reader will begin to skim pages and then miss bits and be frustrated, then put the book to one side in favour of something which is not boring.
With the present book I am editing, it is a slightly different problem; I began writing the story about ten years ago, while I was still working, and my writing was squeezed in corners, usually late at night when the chores were done and the children in bed and the next day’s work prepared. As a result there are quite a few issues of continuity, there are quite a few places where incidents happen seemingly out of the blue with no rational or back story, and characters change names… That is in a way to be expected… however the major problem I’m having is that the book is fantastically long.
The book isn’t just long because a lot happens; there are seven main players whose lives are followed over a year which starts inauspiciously when their beloved grandma dies, grandma who seemed to hold the family together. There are also about a dozen other characters whose lives are connected by family or marriage or friendship. There is a stalking sub-plot, a people trafficking story-line, a Black sea holiday scheme scam… It’s complicated. But it isn’t just long because of all the characters and their stories; it’s long because for some reason I decided to change my style of writing and become very overblown, convoluted, repetitive, and yes… a bit pretentious…
My writing style has changed over the last years that I have been working at it full-time; and looking back over this monster work has been salutary. I have slashed, I have chopped, I have cut, I have streamlined and smoothed out, and achieved continuity – and the characters keep their names all the way through, Sam and Adam are two separate characters, Lara and Alyssa too, and Carla doesn’t slip into being Carlie.
When I started going through the story there were nearly 300,000 words… now there are still a lot, but it is manageable… about 200,000. I’ve not reached the end of the editing process, but I have definitely reached the beginning of the end!