It’s been a good week. When I decided that the work in progress needed to stop progressing and go into reverse in order to sort out characters and movement at the beginning of the action, I had racked up almost 106,000 words (353 pages). As of yesterday, I have re-written the first 44,000 words (155 pages) to my much greater satisfaction. So, despite the fact that I have enjoyed a minimal amount of the fantastic weather we’ve been having this week, I feel that the week has been well spent and the work is back on track. The character who had so concerned me has now assumed more of the space she should occupy in the book and events have fallen into a better rhythm around her. And, because relationships in the book are now better defined, other plotlines have assumed a greater degree of clarity as motivations come to the fore and I have been able to foreshadow things which (I know because I’ve already written them, now) come later in the book.
I’ve gone from knowing that something was wrong and almost being afraid to look in case more was wrong than I thought (don’t forget I’ve already put a previous version based on the same idea, which ran to 120 000 words, on a shelf somewhere with ‘OK but not good enough’ mentally stamped on to it) to facing up to the structural inadequacies of the narrative, setting about it, getting it right (or right enough for now) and now facing the rewriting of the middle section of the book with far more equanimity.
Which is a considerable relief.
Stephen King says you need to write a first draft to find out what your book is about. Not only is that true in my case but I’ve discovered that sometimes I need to write the first draft to find out how best to tell the story too. Emma Darwin’s current blog has this quote from a ‘how-to’ book: Shitty First Drafts: "All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts."