Monday, 2 March 2009

Trampled by a herd of toddlers...

So, with the first draft of the Work In Progress finished around teatime on Sunday 22nd (cue champagne) on Monday 23rd I started editing my friend’s non-fiction book – all 51, 029 words of it.

It took me 2 eight-hour days to do the spelling, punctuation and grammar sweep (and to get a feel for how it read as a whole book after reading chapters as they were produced) and another 11-hour day to do the structural and content editing.
On Thursday I’d arranged to travel to Buckinghamshire to catch up with an old schoolfriend and on Friday I was being gainfully employed.
I had gone 12 days without a break. (Seeing the friend was lovely but, for an introvert, not a break.) By Saturday I could barely string a sentence together and that’s when my non-fiction writing friend came round to work through my suggestions in front of his laptop, MS’s Track Changes feature to the fore.
On Sunday, I allowed myself to slump and cursed the fact that the Other Half and I have given up alcohol for lent. (Actually, by Friday, we were saying things like ‘maybe we could give up except for Friday evenings…’)

So, today I am sorting emails, writing this and catching up with the housework which has been horribly neglected for the last fortnight. Currently, our house looks like a badly-run ironing agency in a parallel universe where the vaccuum cleaner has yet to be invented.

Editing will have to wait until tomorrow.

As far as half term and the finishing – in draft – of the WIP (working title, Not One of Us) goes, I can give you a feel for how much I ignored my family (the boys were away for the latter half of the week) if I tell you that, in an average writing week - four days of actual writing - I produce between 5000 and 7 000 words whereas, during the week before last, I wrote over 23,000 words in 7 days.

I’m told that 25% of the calories you take in are used by your brain. Well I think my brain was taking more than its fair share during the last couple of weeks because my body feels as drained as my mind. I feel positively post-viral.

But still… it’s done. There is a book. And, given that I’ve been trying to get this particular book into some kind of shape since before MNW offered to publish Testament, it’s taken a while. I spent 18 months on an earlier version which I just left on one side when it was 80% finished and 120 000 words long. The current version, started last April, has incorporated the historical elements I had already written - something like 40 000 words - but, given that Not One of Us currently stands at 201,331 words I have been quite busy since the end of April 2008. I just wish I’d worked out who was supposed to be telling the story – and therefore what shape the story was going to take – a little earlier.

My younger son, known to long-time readers of this blog as The Bassist, asked whether the final chapters, having been written so quickly, were going to be easier to edit or more difficult. ‘Cos maybe, as he put it, I was really in the zone when I wrote them.
Good question.
I feel at a loss to know how long the edit is going to take. I’ve done quite a lot of structural work already – in July I looked at the previous three months’ work and realised that one of my characters wasn’t coming through strongly enough so went back and restructured. I’ve also done other tweakings on the way. So I’m hoping that the basic shape of the thing is right.

But whether my characters leap off the page as the people they are in my mind; whether the themes that the book is structured around are too opaque, or – possibly – too laboured; whether the ‘flow’ of what is a slightly unusually multi-viewpoint book works… I won’t know any of these things until I start reading it.

What I would do – ideally - is read the whole thing through in one go. But, given my slow reading speed this would take almost 12 hours, so that’s not going to be possible. Not with a family to live around.
Also, just reading wouldn’t be possible. Not realistically. I’ll need to make notes about what needs to be changed and, possibly, how. That will slow me down. So it’s going to take, if I’m sensible, between two and three average days' work to get the thing read from cover to cover and begin to think about where I’m going with it. So I should start tomorrow and hope I get it all done by close of play on Wednesday as I’m gainfully employed again on Thursday.

But, should I begin with a read-through, or should I edit the last part of what I wrote in that hectic week, which amounts to about 15 000 words? If I don’t, that’s going to have had considerably less editing than everything else as every other section of the book has been read and tweaked, word by word, at least three times.

And, all the while, I still feel as if I’ve been trampled by a herd of toddlers after babysitting them for 24 straight hours.

Ah well, today’s been a nice day off…

7 comments:

KAREN said...

Good lord, I feel exhausted after reading that! Sounds like you need at least a week off, but failing that I think I'd start with a gentle read-through first :o)

Juxtabook said...

Phew! I hope other half is feeding you well. You'll need it.

Alis said...

Hi Karen - Yes, I've decided on the read-through option. In fact, I'm printing it now before taking the Bassist for his on-the-way-to-school driving lesson!

Hi Juxtabook - Eating v. well thanks - organic veggie box definitely helping in this respect!

Tim Stretton said...

Wow! Congrats, Alis. For me, finishing the first draft is the best bit. Enjoy the moment!

Alis said...

Hi Tim - thanks!
Actually, I'm odd in that I'm one of those writers who actually enjoys editing so I'm not looking forward to the next few weeks with anything but pleasurable anticipation. (As long as it all goes well, of course...)

David Isaak said...

"Not One of Us" is a nice title--very provocative.

As to the brain using 25% of the calories, I guess that all depends on what else you do during the day. But I just did a quick calculation. There's 86,400 seconds in a day. If you eat 2,000 Calories, that's 8.380,000 Joules in a day, which works out to about 96 J/second, which is the same as 96 watts. That would mean our brain runs at about 25 watts.

We're all really sort of dim bulbs, aren't we?

Alis said...

Hi David - I must admit that I feel like a particularly dim bulb at the minute! Thanks for comment on the title - I like it too, but it remains to be seen whether Will does - or, more to the point, whether he even likes the book...