Having read a fair sample of other people’s blogs, I’ve been wondering about doing it differently. More punchy, not so wordy, maybe more interesting. I’ve subtitled this blog ‘Odd Thoughts about Writing and Life’, but does anyone want to read a whole lot of thoughts? Of course I want to write them, and so far I’ve found a particular voice to do it in which veers between chatty and more serious. Very middle-class, that: no wonder someone suggested The Guardian. I don’t know how I’d do it differently, but that’s what writing’s all about – finding the right voice, being willing to adapt, not getting stuck in the groove.
It’s not just this blog that I need to do differently. Having had my novel rejected by two agents – not many in the grand scheme of things, but enough to make me think again – I sent it off to an editorial consultant for a thorough going-over. I decided to use some of my house-decorating money for it, and in fact it cost about as much as having a smallish room decorated. It was a worthwhile exercise. Though reading the consultant’s comments was painful at first, when I came back to it I could see she hadn’t said everything was bad. Just a lot of major things that needed changing/rewriting/reshaping: not enough narrative tension, protagonist too passive, too much ‘telling’ rather than showing (that well-known bugbear). And at least she seemed to think I could write, which was some consolation. But the report still made me cringe at having dared to send out the book to even a few agents when there were clearly such glaring faults. Perhaps it’s just as well that only two have seen it, one of whom was keen to read the whole thing and then dropped it like a hot brick, probably for the reasons stated above. In fact it was that agent (or rather the reader: the book didn’t get as far as the agent herself) who suggested getting a consultant’s report.
I know from friends who already have agents (and whose books are, I suspect, far better than mine will ever be) that even if you are talented and persistent and lucky enough to get taken on, the agent will probably want you to do a whole lot more revamping before they start sending the book out to publishers. Rewriting seems to be the name of the game, and I can see why. Writing a novel, or come to that a poem or a short story, is like chipping away at the stone until the finished form at last emerges. The difference with a piece of writing, of course, is that if you happen to have chipped away too much you can always put it back – so long as you have saved the previous draft. I’m now on revision no.5, which I suppose isn’t bad going. It will have to be a more radical revision this time – more taken out, more new material put in – but I hope I’m ready to do that. Perhaps doing it differently will even be enjoyable. And perhaps, if I do it well enough and end up with a trimmer, fitter, more attractive novel, another agent may even think it’s worth a second look.