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.
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