Saturday 22 July 2023

Work In Progress


Four months now since I finished my current work in progress.

Though I was happy with my original draft, I had a strong sense that something wasn’t working. Unusually for me, I sent the manuscript to a couple of trusted friends to gather their opinions. The hope was that they would highlight the issues I felt were there, confirming my suspicions, and I’d have an easy sail through the next attempt.

The feedback was excellent. And I was right about my reservations.

I was also wrong about several other points and they were revelations.  

The process of using the perspective of others has been interesting.

First of all, in spite of knowing that every comment was valid and was exactly what I was after, it still stung. The ‘lots to like’ and ‘really enjoyed’ were small comfort and the salient points were sharp.

The stinging moved on to another feeling. The crushing sense that I can’t write anything anymore. That maybe I’ve lost whatever skills I possessed and would just have to accept the passing of a major aspect of my life.

Thankfully, that lasted for only a short while.

Next step, the question of how to make the changes.

In order to solve some of the problems, key aspects of the story needed altering. Relationships weren’t right. The work was too shallow. Several events seemed unlikely given the situation. There were even questions about the whole premise.

Being lazy, I wanted to find the simplest fix. A band aid might do it. A few extra sentences here or there, a dialogue change or two, a twisting of a key moment to slightly alter the shape. And then the realisation that if I wanted the story to be as good as I can make it, the lazy approach wasn’t going to cut it.

I chatted this all through with another good writer friend. He’s always there and has the understanding of stories that most humans don’t possess. Even without giving him much detail, a couple of cups of coffee later there were a few suggestions that I could hold on to in case they might be useful.

Then came the waiting. The suggestions needed to swirl around in my unconscious for a while until they emerged from the clouds. When they were almost in focus, I began again. The first chapter was cut and I made a fresh attempt at chapter one. That’s almost in the bag now. And, of course, a new opening means there are new possibilities about the ways ahead.

More waiting.

Two nights ago, just before drifting into sleep, I found myself thinking about the book. An almost fully formed suggestion appeared that manages to link the loose threads of new thinking to the core of the original plot. It was a wonderful moment. One of those Eurekas. I could wake up and write it down or I could drift back into sleep (surely I’d remember it in the morning); falling asleep proved far more attractive. Morning came and I did remember, which is when I forgot. Thankfully, my daughter Kitty asked me about my writing in the evening. It all came back to me. I still didn’t write it down, but it’s pretty fixed in my mind as a way to proceed and I’m sure I can make it.

Now all I have to do is sit at the laptop and type.

The good news is that I have a week to myself coming very soon. My family will be returning from holiday at the end of the month, while I have ring-fenced another seven days as a retreat of sorts. If I don’t make significant progress in that time, then I’ll only have myself to blame.

I think I can pull it off. I’m still lazy and want to keep as much of the original draft as I can, but that’s acceptable. After all, the original idea is still the one I want to put across to future readers.

All being well, if I work hard and pull it off, maybe I’ll be putting out something half decent in a few months. If it’s not up to scratch, at least I’ll know that I did the best I could with the germ of the idea.

Here’s hoping.  

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