The Secret History of Moscow, the new novel from Ekaterina Sedia is garnering widespread acclaim from readers of contemporary fantasy, and comparisons to some of the genre’s most respected writers, including Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint. It also marks Sedia out as one of a number of women writers pushing the boundaries of fantasy writing.
Writing isn’t writing. Writing is editing.
I’ve been struck by the importance of rewriting, or editing, over the last few days. Yesterday I rewrote an article I was working on to editorial direction, and today I made it half way through the 4th draft of ‘The Great Western Pile’. (To those people who bravely volunteered to read this for me, it will be on its way to you by the weekend) Both have been much improved for the rewriting, and as always although the idea of rewriting is never appealing the actual process of rewriting and editing is enjoyable if hard work. I’ve heard writers compare editing to manual labour. Writing is like drawing the architectural plans, editing is getting out the trowls and hauling bricks around. Like a days hard physical activity, a days hard mental exertion leaves you feeling tired but satisfied.
The really painful part of editing is the realisation that you will have to do it. After each draft of ‘The Great Western Pile’ I’d become increasingly convinced I was finished. It took me a week to decide that the 3rd draft was incomplete and that a 4th would be neccessary. I spent a couple of days in a good mood because I’d finished a new story, and then around Sunday the grey storm clouds of doom emerged as I re-read and saw what was missing from the piece. In this case it was something really major, as I’d actually forgotten to tell the story! Or at least the emotional core of the stopry that really needed to be there to make the whole thing hang together. I think it will take maybe three or four writing session to rectify this. I did two today and will do two more tommorow, so fingers crossed.
The flip side of getting started is knowing when to stop. You can continue editing a story forever, but beyond a certain point you will stop improving and then start actually making your story worse. So when is enough enough? I go back to the building metaphor for this, and think about the story as a structure. Does it have a beggining, middle and an end? Are there engaging, believable characters? Is there a convincing, fictional world? Has the central theme been resoulved? And so on. Once the answer is yes to enough of these questions, I’m done. At least until an editor asks for rewrites, when it starts all over again.
Hopefully the 4th draft of GWP will be finished tommorow, in which case I will be celebrating.
I just noticed I had made 199 posts to this blog, so thought I would make it 200! I’d better actually write something though or it will be meaningless…
I hate reading blog posts about why someones blog hasn’t been updated recently, so I’m sorry to make you go through this. Between work, freelance projects and writing, my blogging time has been quite limited and almost entirely given over to reviews for The Fix and pieces for Guardian Unlimited. (There is a new post on The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia coming up which I will link to). I’m going to change this however, because over the years or so I’ve been using this blog I’ve found it really constructive, and don’t want to lose that.
In fact, I think I’m going to make a real, if short post right now!