‘The trouble with you is you’re a perfectionist,’ said my mother. ‘I’m not,’ I replied. ‘I’m not good enough.’
Virtually all of my writing hours so far this year have been spent redrafting and editing. First there was the second edition of my novel, “Strong as Death”, which took a conservative six weeks longer to complete than I had planned. Then there was a quick redraft-reprieve whilst I planned my next project (I always like to leave ideas alone for a while. Once I stop poking and prodding them, it’s astonishing the new shoots that sprout whilst my attentions are otherwise engaged.) Then came the current marathon redraft of my next novel, “Selkie”.
Last autumn, I spent some time discussing my work with a very experienced editor who has published many novels. Although this had costs, both financial and time-wise, I think my money and hours were well spent. The major change I took from those consultations, and which I then decided to implement, was to write my YA crossover novels from one character’s perspective rather than from multiple points of view. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that multiple view points are somehow inferior. Far from. I am currently enjoying Kate Mosse’s “Citadel”, in which she uses differing character perspectives, as well as slipping between centuries, to unfold her tale. Even within her third person voices, she also handles omniscience with skill. But, apart from not being as experienced as authors such as Kate Mosse, I decided that my novels warranted a different approach.
Both the second edition of “Strong as Death” and my up-coming novel, “Selkie”, are now written from first person perspectives, Minnie Shilling in the former and Sam Harris in the latter. This technique has its challenges, and at times I find myself grappling with how to unfold part of the story, or reveal things without just interjecting an authorly aside or some sort of contrived plot convolution. However, the pay off works (I hope), as readers go on exactly the same voyage of discovery at exactly the same pace as the protagonist, adding tension, suspense. (Unless, like me, you are blighted by a read-the-last-page-first compulsion, something from which, I am happy to report, I am in recovery).
So, where does my mother’s observation come into all this? I have been known to spend upwards of an hour revising just two or three sentences to get it ‘just right’. I want sentences that slip almost unnoticed past a reader’s eyes whilst at the same time touching their hearts. The challenge: how to produce a beautifully written whole without over-written individual parts. So, ever mindful that my mother was so often (annoyingly) right, it’s time to get a move on, after all there are plots to plan, characters to fathom, worlds to create. And I mustn’t forget to peek at those shoots that have been sprouting all by themselves whilst I’ve been poking and prodding my words.
Look out for news of “Selkie” coming out at the end of May