Rewrites

Novelist Derek Farrell (Death of a Diva, Death of a Nobody – Farenheit Press) gives us his quirky take on the sometimes tortuous business of rewriting.

 

So you finished a first draft?

Congratulations. Seriously, in a world where most people never finish a sentence let alone a book, you did it.

Be PROUD of yourself.

Now, lock the manuscript in a drawer in a desk in a very high tower surrounded by thickets and forests and leave it there. Or save it to a drive where you won’t easily be able to open it. In other words, start your rewrite by not looking at the manuscript.

Instead, ask yourself what, if you were asked in an interview to describe your book, you would say. What’s it about? How’s it written? Does it have a message, and if so what is it?

Let go of what you’ve written. Go back to what you wanted to write.

Jot this down if you like. Fast. Don’t think too much about it.This is the truth and too much thinking turns truth into bullsh*t. Years of therapy at eighty quid a pop and you’re getting this nugget for free. You’re welcome.

Now you know what you wanted to write about, how you wanted it to sound, and what it’s meant to look like, you can cut through the thickets (careful: Thorns) climb the ladder to that high tower, unlock the drawer, drag out the MS, and take a look at it.

Or open the file on your computer; whichever works for you.

Rewriting:

It is not ‘Killing your babies.’ You’re an author not King Herod. It might be taking your babies and putting them into an orphanage until you find a proper home for them. Nothing you write is ever worthless, so don’t delete. Just cut ‘n’ paste to a document called ‘Offcuts.’

It is not ‘Throwing everything away and starting again.’ I promise you the book you’ve written is good, this will just make it better. Silence the voices. Keep as much as you like of the draft.

It is not ‘Adding whole chapters.’ Or rather it shouldn’t be. The process is about reshaping to your original vision, and inserting new material only where it’s needed.

It is not a one shot activity. My first book ‘Death of a Diva’ was rewritten nine times. The first draft is massively different to the second. The ninth barely different from the eighth. Each rewrite was necessary to get it to the vision I had in my head when I started the book.

That said it is not an open ended activity. The voices in your head cannot risk your book ever being seen by someone who might contradict their negativity. Thus they will continually tell you that it ‘needs another reworking,’ ‘will never be right,’ or ‘isn’t done yet.’

Further, there will be real life actual people – agents, other authors, your uncle Tom with the funny eye and the unfulfilled dreams of becoming an actor – who will happily tell you everything that is wrong with the work, and advise what you should do to put it right.

Remember that vision you had – the one you scribbled before the rewrites began? If the book you end up with looks like that vision, you’re done. If it doesn’t, rewrite it again.

Ignore the other voices. They are not necessarily wrong; but what they want is their own book, not yours.

Keep on until yours is in front of you.

 

Derek Farrell’s new novel Death of a Nobody is available from Farenheit Press from May 2016. You can find him at http://www.derekfarrell.co.uk or alternatively @DerekIFarrell on Twitter

 

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Tom Vowler – Dazzling the Gods

Tom Vowler champions the short story and introduces his upcoming collection:

Short stories, good ones at any rate, are rarely fashioned with ease, their alchemy, for me at least, a complex and protracted procedure. They require a poet’s precision, an artist’s artifice. They must have a subtext, a second story, veiled within the first. Their language must function, not only on a literal, expository level, but an affective, abstract one too, so that their impact is more than the sum of their parts. Significant space must be left for the reader to occupy, lacunae that must still be implied.

The best stories are deeply immersive, yet holding something back, reluctant as they are to yield all their meaning, at least on early readings. They must evoke more than explain, be felt more than understood. They must get under our skin a little. The modern short story is patterned by internal emotion, mood and atmosphere rather than by external action. Rarely comfortable with providing facile entertainment, stories instead provoke, delight, instruct or enchant. They fit large truths into small spaces.

The best short stories can stay with us as long, if not longer, than even our most cherished novels, their ripple enduring thanks, perhaps, to their more visceral impact, the additional demands they make of the reader. They can unsettle and change us.

But of course short story collections, we’re told, don’t sell; they are written, primarily, for those who write them. They are tricksy, full of ambiguity; they shun satisfying narrative arcs, are more art than entertainment. They can be difficult, impenetrable at times, delivering more questions than answers. Publishers, because of the story’s diminutive commercial impact, tend to avoid them. Which is a shame because they can also be things of great beauty and elegance and profundity. They tell us so much about ourselves; they reflect in complex and wonderful ways on what it means to be alive, to be human. They can exult and dazzle. To borrow from Stephen King, they are a kiss in the dark from a stranger, or from Kafka, an axe to break up the frozen sea within us.

And so after three years of writing little else other than stories, I have curated them into Dazzling the Gods, which is currently being crowdfunded via the wonderful folk at Unbound. To whet your appetite, here’s a little about the book.

A brother returns from exile to stir up the past. A macabre performance in the bowels of a Parisian museum must be seen to be believed. Lovers torn apart by heroin confront their loss in wildly divergent ways. A severely disabled husband struggles with the permission he has bestowed. A credulous lover finally faces the crimes of her partner. A father hopes a son never tires of their pilgrimage. And a widower observers his daughter blossoming amid the carnage of war.

By turns tender, brutal and darkly humorous, the stories in Dazzling the Gods are furnished with fraternal affection, climate change, artificial intelligence and the contrails of lost love. Sensual and shocking, lyrical and haunting, these tails are a curation of all things human, from the exultant to the diabolical.

You can support Dazzling the Gods and follow its journey into existence here

( https://unbound.co.uk/books/dazzling-the-gods ).

Tom Vowler is an award-winning novelist and short story writer living in south west England. His debut short story collection, The Method, won the Scott Prize in 2010 and the Edge Hill Readers’ Prize in 2011, while his novel What Lies Within received critical acclaim. He is editor of the literary journal Short Fiction and an associate lecturer in creative writing at Plymouth University, where he’s just completed his phD. His second novel, That Dark Remembered Day, was published in 2014. Tom’s second collection of stories, Dazzling the Gods, is forthcoming in 2016.

More at http://www.tomvowler.co.uk