Thursday, 10 June 2010

Restoring Houses and Novels

So we're standing in the rubble of what used to be my house, with every internal wall gone, and the builder says to me, 'It has to get worse before it can get better.'

And I stare back and think - there are kitchen cupboards to choose, and worktops that have to go with the flooring, which I haven't yet chosen either, and the fireplace to be decided on, and the electrician wants to know where he should put the new sockets which means I have to think about where I might want to plug in a lamp or a computer and then there's the question of keeping the picture rail and what to do about the stairs and the bannister rail and - Argggh! Will I have the energy (and cash) to ever make it better again?

Bit like a novel, really. You've slaved away over it to finish the first draft, you've put it away, then you've come back to it, and realised that everything is in the wrong place, the characters don't work, the central character is whingey, in fact the whole thing should be ripped out and that will mean more questions and...well, sometimes it seems easier to put the manuscript back in a drawer and start something else.

I've done major overhauls of three novels before they reached their final form, and by major I mean major - 90% going on Adultery for Beginners, not sure for the other two, but they both felt as much effort as turning round an oil tanker that was going the wrong way up the English Channel. I don't think it's entirely coincidental that they were my first three and that I've got, well, cannier, as I've written more.

But that's not much help if you're still on your first novel. For me, first drafts are such hard work I simply can't leave them, I have to persevere until they're better. Somehow I have to find the energy. Like the house, they have to get worse before they can get better.

Off to CHESTERFIELD tonight, at the library at 7.30 as part of the Derbyshire Lit Fest. (Details on p 49 of the brochure). Come and meet me and Lucy Diamond, Milly Johnson and Veronica Henry - and if not then, we'll all be at Birmingham on the 23rd.

2 comments:

Speranza said...

I was at the Chesterfield event; I haven't had time to post before now but I wanted to thank you for your time and the help you gave me. (I'm the one with daughters in Rome and Paris!)

Gill

Sarah Duncan said...

Glad it was useful, good luck with your writing and hope Lucy and Sarah enjoy the books.