Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Writing and the Forth Bridge

My novel course with Curtis Brown has finished and I’ve begun to edit my manuscript. It’s a very absorbing process and has demanded much concentration. My main focus has been on the opening act of the novel. When I began to write the story, I was embarking on a journey towards an ending that I hadn’t yet imagined. Reaching the end of the novel gave me two things. Firstly, the sense of accomplishment of actually getting there. And secondly, the realization that I needed to go back to the beginning and revise it. This suggests that novel writing is similar to painting the Forth Bridge.

However, it turns out to be a bit more difficult than just going back to the start and repainting the bridge. The beginning that you wrote all those weeks before, may not now be the best place to actually begin the story from. So I reread the whole manuscript and made notes about what parts worked well and what parts worked less well. And after a lot of debate with myself, I realized that my story really started at chapter five.  So I rewrote that as chapter one. Then I had to rework the following chapters to include information necessary for the plot that had been in the previous chapters one to four.

The rereading also showed me that I needed to extend and deepen several of the characters. I made detailed notes about their motivations and desires. This was very helpful as it also led me to some new plot ideas. The manuscript was also too long. The advice from Curtis Brown was to cut a sub-plot and a minor character. I did this, which also involved a good bit of rewriting of the first act of the novel.

Now I’m editing the second act. The course called this, using a cake-making analogy, the great soggy middle. This is where the jeopardy for your main characters tends to diminish and readers may lose interest. But my second act seems to be in somewhat better shape than my first. The rewriting I’ve been doing on this so far has mainly been pruning unnecessary scenes and revising the tone of those that I’m keeping. But, I shall be doing some new writing here too as another of my fresh plot ideas is soon to be introduced.

Overall, I’m repairing the most obvious defects in the first draft of the novel. The result should be an improved second draft that works pretty well. I hope to achieve this by Christmas, then have a break and come back to it in the New Year with fresh eyes. Then I will reread it from start to finish and hopefully create a third draft that is in good enough shape to send out to an agent. In the end, this makes the rewriting process much more like rebuilding the Forth Bridge than repainting it.

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