Heavy Engineering

In the few moments I get in a day (usually whilst Emily is napping and Lucy is being entertained by a DVD… one thing is for sure, this writing malarky isn’t going to win me the Mother of the Year award!!), I devote them to my novel. Well, okay, my story. I always feel like I’m being a bit pretentious when I call it ‘my novel’ (a bit like when I say  ‘I’m an artist’… nooo, I’m just some one with a skimpy armour fetish who plays way too much D&D!), but, well, that’s what I want it to be, so that’s what I will refer to it as.

The other day, I was re-writing chapter 11 (it needed splitting, and then I needed to re-write the content so it fit in with my other re-writes) and I had a fretty moment where I wondered ‘am I re-writing too much of this?!’ followed by ‘Oh, Dear Lord, this first draft is SHIT!’. Now, I’ve mentioned before how crappy my  first draft is, and I think it bears repeating – My first draft is crap. Bollocks. Terrible.

And the chances are yours is, too.

‘Ooo, way to make assumptions, you pretentious bitch!’ I hear you cry. ‘How dare you say that about my precious baby? I’m the new Tolkien / Rowling / Hemmingway / Dickens (or insert your own author in there – me, I’m going with Gaiman. I cannot begin to tell you how much I love Gaiman… ^^D), don’t you know!’. Well, you very well may be right. But the chances are, you’re going to have to do some heavy engineering in order to get there.

I’m in the thick of my heavy engineering. I’ve completely re-written the middle section, I’ve swapped chapters 4-8 around allow for the same events to happen, but in a different order. I’ve taken out 5 chapters and completely re-written them to allow for the chapter swap and have taken one character and given him a new, more central role. I sitll need to write more of him in.  I’m currently planning my assault on the end of the middle section, where I am adding in a new dimension, taking out another, bringing my two MCs a little closer together (they were more hostile to each other at this point in the first draft), breaking chapter 16 up so the end happens later on in the story… I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

It’s a lot of work. And it’s very daunting. But, now I’m getting on with it, I’ve discovered a very curious thing. As daunting, frustrating and time consuming this is, it’s also quite a lot of fun. One thing doing heavy engineering has taught me is that whilst every word you write for your story won’t end up in the final draft, they aren’t words wasted. They allow you to experiment, explore and develop. In short, you learn, not just about the story and its inhabitants, but a lot about yourself and how you work. What your crutch phrases are (more about them in another blog!), what situations you lean on, what your ‘word bank’ is. Amongst other things (I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve sat there, my head in my hands, thinking ‘Jesus, Claire – what were you thinking? I mean, *really*?!?’).

The thing is, don’t be afraid of the heavy engineering stage. It’s hard work, but I’m finding that it is more rewarding than writing the first draft. The first draft was fun in a ‘whirlwind of creativity’ kind of way, but this is more rewarding, because now I’m learning. ‘Cos you may well write your million words, but if you don’t go back and challenge ’em, and make ’em sit up and dance, they may as well be random marks on a piece of paper.

Keeping writing, peeps!

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