Friday, 6 February 2015

Light at the end of the tunnel

 
Phew. I made the deadline and delivered the first draft of my new novel this week. I have no idea how good, or bad, it is. That's not false modesty, or disingenuousness; I genuinely don't know. Before I send it, I always print out the first draft because hard copy reads differently from the words on the screen. I don't know why that should be, but that's how it seems to me. No matter how many times I go over and over the text on screen - and I am a constant self-editor - I want to see it in the cold, hard light of day.
 
So I print out, only single-spaced so it looks more like a finished page in a book, rather than the double-spaced manuscript that publishers and agents want to see. Then I edit again on paper, as the world's most critical reader.
 
As such, I find some parts are better than I expected - and some are far worse. It's much easier to judge the pace and the amount of attention given to various aspects of the story when it's on paper. It may be different for other people, but this is how it is for me. I thought I had wrapped up the ending quite well, but last Sunday I ended up not doing a light polish of the text as I'd hoped, but writing 2,300 additional words to expand what now seemed rushed.
 
At this stage the book has taken over all rational thought. I consider the mundane necessities of life like going to the supermarket to be outrageous intrusions. I resent leaving my desk to answer the door or the telephone. All I can think about are the loose ends: the tiny plot and character issues that need to be tied up, the small mentions that ought to be recalled for proper satisfaction. I scribble these down on bits of ripped paper, newspaper, anything and put them in a pocket for decoding later.
 
At the end of this process, I make the changes on screen. It still seems extraordinary to be able to fit an entire book in a computer document, attach to an email and press send. It took me a whole day to print out my first novel, put it in the box the computer paper had come in, parcel up and take it to the post office!
 
So now I wait. (That part hasn't changed.) My editor in New York told me immediately that she is immersed in another project for the next few weeks, so not to expect a response for a while. I couldn't be happier. That's a fortnight's relaxation and decompression at least. As regular readers know, I have had a tough time to write through but now the pressure has lifted. It feels like a long time since the story began with a new place to explore and random observations in a notebook.


6 comments:

litlove said...

Congratulations, Deborah! You are an awesome professional to meet your deadline despite everything that happened last year! I have every faith in you and expect your new novel will be wonderful. I completely agree that text reads very differently on paper - the timing is altered somehow.

Gill Edwards said...

well done, i hope the writing of it has been cathartic for you. I look forward to hearing more about it. I hope you are well and as always i send you my best wishes

Gill x

Libby said...

And how very nice, and refreshing, to see that you actually have a hand written notebook… rare these days. My husband always, always hand writes (he abhors the computer!) and will be sitting in a cafe, working and writing and so many times people stop and exclaim: "Oh, you really write in a real notebook!" The best part is that his handwriting is beautiful. Anyway, congratulations and do take a very well deserved break!

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Hopefully, you can decompress a bit now and breathe. I know it's been a rough several months and wish you peace in the next weeks.

Marcheline said...

Wonderful! Looking forward to getting to see the ink on the page, myself.

Barbara Fisher said...

I completely agree – hard copy does read differently from words on the screen, that is why I still prefer real books to e-books.
I hope you get some good news very soon, Barbara.

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