Thursday, 8 October 2009

Smoothing Down the Edges

One of the natural imbalances of novels is the amount of time they take to read versus the time they take to write. A ninety-odd thousand word novel like 'Tug' takes the best part of a year to write but can easily be gobbled up by a reader in twenty four hours - I know, I've been that reader. So, as I tinkered with my manuscript this morning, I was wondering what it was that actually took the time -and I think the answer is "getting it right".
I can write the first draft of a book in about three to four months. However, the result is usually so incoherent that it would make a cat laugh - and remember, cats can't even read. I then spend as much time as I have left before the deadline (hopefully at least six months) going over it and over it in order to make it as perfect as possible - including at least one 'go through' to make sure there are enough jokes in it.
I take my hat off to authors such as Freya North who restrict themselves to three drafts before handing the book in to their publisher - but take comfort in the fact the great Jane Austen was a fiddler and a fussocker just like me. Her manuscripts, it seems, are full of alterations and crossings out; and, when there just wasn't enough room on the page for any more rewriting she would attatch the latest corrections, written on tiny pieces of paper, directly to her manuscript with dress-making pins. (see 'Jane's Fame' by Claire Harman p50)
Suddenly, the cut and paste function on my PC seems little short of miraculous.

On another topic, I have been asked how I chose to celebrate the release of my first novel - and the answer is: with new pyjamas. okay, so not very rock 'n' roll but I LOVE new pyjamas. Somewhere deep down in my psyche, is the notion that when (note: that's when not if)I find the Right Pair, I will miraculously be transformed into Jennifer Aniston circa Season Two of Friends. I will be tall, slim, able to toss my perfect coiffed locks nonchelantly and enjoy an enviable girl-about-town lifestyle with my equally tall, slim, coiffed etc etc buddies. However, it's the same every time. I get the jammies home, slip them out of the carrier bag, snip off the labels and climb in, my hopes high that THIS TIME with THIS PAIR the dream will finally be realised. But it's never to be. On each occasion, the New York loft apartment and the Ralph Lauren wardrobe totally fail to materialise and I find myself curled up on the sofa with a cuppa watching the re-runs of Gavin and Stacey like I did the week before. Nothing wrong with that - in fact, maybe this is exactly what Jen dreams of in the middle of her party-party Hollywood lifestyle. But I never give up because it's just a matter of tracking down that elusive pair, and when I do - well, it will all have been worth it.

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