Sunday, 20 June 2010


I have gone back to The Book Protectors' Daughter. All the thoughts of representation and mimesis have made the brain ache a bit so I thought I would take a break from it. Plus it is a week since I looked at the complete novel and the time is right to start editing.
Editing can be a tough thing to do. You go back to something which when you last looked at it was the most amazing piece of work you had ever seen. You knew you could give Dickens or Dahl a run for their money, it is that good. Then when you look at it again it has mysteriously moved from being a piece of 'great writing' to a load of tosh. You need to operate on it, removing, adding or re-ordering as required, trying to get it to a semblance of a piece of good writing. (Great writing I think you achieve by accident and something you an never claim of your own work.)
You start reading it - btw editing must be done on a hard copy not the computer screen - with your pencil in hand ready to slash through words, scribble thoughts in the margin, use the above symbols to create/remove paragraphs,indents etc. It can be a very satisfying process as you watch your writing develop and form the narrative you were aiming for.
However, this can cause as much pain as it lifts you. There will be times when you have to 'kill your babies'. This is not as violent as it seems but it feels like it at the time. We have all done it, considered for hours a sentence until, in our eyes, it is absolutely perfect. It says everything we want it to and we glow with pleasure at the result. Then we come across it when we edit.What a disaster, it is still a glorious sentence, but not for this story. You have to be brave and for the sake of your work strike through those words. At times it really hurts and you have to be brave but in the end you will know you did the right thing.
Writing is a craft, something you need to practice, to hone and editing is part of this. If you think of a carpenter he will work on a piece of wood until it takes a form similar to the one he envisages to be the final product. Then he takes his piece of sandpaper to smooth the rough wood. The sandpaper is his editor's pencil. Smoothing out the rough bits and enhancing the good until they feel smooth and in his own mind his work is finished. I am off with my piece of sandpaper to polish The Book Protectors' Daughter.


  1. But you know, once you've learned the art of murdering your little darlings, you are on the road to actually getting it right. I think until we have learned how to rewrite and slash and cut - as opposed to just tweaking - we spend an awful lot of time kidding ourselves.
    Great post, Ness!

  2. Thanks Nicky and I agree totally, it is having the courage to strike things out that you have spilt tears over. Then you know you are getting towards being able to call yourself a writer.