I saw Toy Story 3 this evening, but want to think about it a bit before delivering a verdict. Therefore, tonight’s blog entry is about something completely different.
It’s amazing how a writer can look at their work any number of times and still not see the mistakes staring right at them. While nothing is ever rewritten to complete satisfaction, even these humble blog entries from yours truly are looked at a few weeks after the event and are then the recipient of much tutting. A misplaced word here, a bad bit of punctuation there (usually comma overload): it’s embarrassing how I miss them.
You’d think by now that I’d have nailed the first three chapters of the novel I’m trying to sell. Sadly not. While each version is better than the one before, flaws still remain. This weekend I’ve been trying to chisel out a few more of them. Logic and believability issues, mainly. Sadly, even something high concept still has to make sense. The thing about these errors is that they only come to the surface when I leave what I’ve written alone for a few weeks, or get someone else to have a look. The fresh perspective on things this time around comes from an author friend of mine called Daniel Clay. (Buy his book, it’s really fucking good.) The lightbulb moment was about how to make something that never quite rang true… er… ring true, and all that was required to achieve this was to switch three paragraphs around. Ridiculous.
There’s another bit – the climax of the opening chapters, in fact – which requires some new stuff to be written, but even that is supplemented by other material moved there from later on. It’s like rearranging a jigsaw. The pieces are all there, they just need to be lined up correctly.
Of course, the annoying thing about rewriting when the earlier material is ‘out there’ for agents to see, is that you start cursing yourself for sending out such flawed drafts. They can’t possibly like this error-strewn crap, right? Well, maybe not. Or maybe they won’t even notice that line twelve of page ten contains a phrase that could be slightly improved.
The great thing about rewriting is when the solution to something that’s bugged you for ages just pops into your head – a simple fix that makes a massive difference. That’s why you do it. That’s what gives you renewed hope. And in my case, some of the suggested amendments to my opening chapters are making me excited again about how well the thing’s going to hang together.
And then the penny drops: if there’s still important stuff to fix in the opening three chapters, what on Earth is going to be wrong with the other forty nine of them?