Writing a novel is a totally engrossing occupation. For the last year, ‘Blood Hits the Wall’ has been my obsession. As we writers know, writing is far more than sitting at the PC and getting the words up on the screen. It becomes something that occupies the greater part of your day. The characters and the scenes constantly play out in your mind even when you are busy doing something else entirely.
Rewriting is a lengthy process. Once the first draft is complete and the numerous rewrites analysing plot, characters and pace have begun, your head starts spinning as you rework sections in your mind. You reach a point when you’re not sure if that great extra clue or nuance is still in your head or if you have already altered the manuscript itself. Whole scenes get moved around to provide a more logical unfolding of the story line. This means a careful check that it does not result in references to events that haven’t happened yet because you’ve moved them later.
Eventually, when you reach the point when you can’t face reading it through from beginning to end yet again, it is ready to send to your beta readers and their advice is duly weighed and acted upon.
It took over a week for me to accept the failings pointed out by one writing buddy. None of my other beta readers had had a problem with the things she raised so the temptation was to ignore them. I tinkered with a couple of things she mentioned but I was too fond of my subplot to cut it out entirely as she suggested. Leaving the problem to roll around at the back of my head for a few days, I eventually came up with a solution. If I integrated it into the main plot, I could salvage my subplot by making it relevant. She didn’t like the ending either though I did bulk at her proposed finale. Nonetheless, I did make me realise that the point at which I’d left the story was less than satisfactory. Fiona’s problems may have been solved but Peter’s mission was still not complete. Another chapter was needed to answer all the questions raised. Needless to say, that different ending had many repercussions all down the line.
The problem with making radial changes at this stage in the game is that it necessitates alterations throughout. Is it any wonder that some writers dig their heels in and ignore the advice? Some are so obdurate that there seems little point in having beta readers at all. Perhaps what they are really looking for is someone to proof read it for them. In the end, it’s a matter of trust. I may not like or accepted their solutions but it’s important to consider the limitations of my plot that led my beta readers to make them in the first place. The vital question I have to weigh up – especially if only one person has made the point – is there any validity in the shortcomings they perceive?
The final rewrite is now done. Time to send it off for its final polish.
My baby is gone. ‘Blood Hits the Wall’ is now in the hands of the copy-editor and proof-reader. It’s a strange feeling. It’s left me rudderless. For the last week I’ve been wandering aimlessly around the house unable to settle to anything. The kitchen cupboards have been spring cleaned, the sleeves on a couple of my jackets finally turned up and the pile of sewing jobs completed and piles of accumulated papers in my study sorted. I’ve run out of things to do!
I know I should be working on the next novel. It isn’t as though I have no idea of what to do next. I have the location – a complete itinerary for Fiona Mason’s coach tour – and a rough idea of the plot even if I haven’t yet worked out the details, but I can’t seem to tune in to it. Until ‘Blood Hits the Wall’ finally wings its way to Amazon, I’m in limbo.
Writing is an emotional roller coaster with occasional highs but definite frustrations if not quite lows. I’m trying hard but the clouds of depression are gathering above my head.