I am in the last stages of finishing my work in progress, a novel for children set in Nepal. This 40,000 word novel, and the accompanying 10,000 word exegesis essay, is the final stage of my Master of Arts in Creative Writing.
I’ve been working on the novel for over 18 months and finally it is getting near to ready to submit to examiners in the coming weeks. Then I plan to start it on its journey around the various publishing houses, so fun continues. This novel writing game is not a sprint, and more of a marathon. In fact, sometimes it feels like having to run a marathon every day.
Despite the weariness, I am pleased with the final product and I’ve learned so much along the way. With the help of my critiquing group, friends who are critical readers, and my supervising lecturers, my skills have been honed and my writing has improved way beyond what I had thought possible.
I have learned, above all, not to be precious about my words. I have learned to be ruthless and to cut anything that does not work, anything that is repetitious, redundancies, passive voice, switches in POV and many other stumbling blocks placed in the path of writers everywhere.
Must get back to the finishing touches.
This blog about writing is four years old.
Cue: the sound of wild cheering, strains of “Happy Birthday” and the popping of corks drifting through cyberspace.
[Editors note: corks popping? Why wasn’t I invited??]
Yes folks, this blog about writing is now officially 4 years old today. It has crawled, stumbled and staggered across the pages of literary endeavour over the last four years trying to say something significant – and sometimes just trying to say something.
At times I’ve shared some of my short stories, at other times I’ve published here a few samples of my poetry. Over the last two years I’ve shared my struggles, joys and frustrations while trying to complete my Master of Arts in Creative Writing, including the trials of trying to write a novel for my thesis paper.
This blog continues to grow and prosper – well, grow a little each day. Still waiting for the prosper bit. I try to post every day but often it can be several days between posts as the other demands of my writing life take up time and energy.
Thank you to all of my faithful readers.
Special thanks to all of you who have made the effort to leave a comment. I’d by mighty chuffed if you left a comment wishing the blog a Happy Birthday.
A extra special thanks to my son Sim’ who does all of the background technical stuff keeping this blog going.
Writing a novel – a writer’s journal: part 20
Rewriting and editing: is there a difference?
There is a fine line between rewriting and editing. One of my lecturers is quite adamant that there is a huge difference. I see them as distinct but closely related. What you call them is not important. It’s the process that is crucial.
By rewriting I mean going back over the whole text and literally rewriting whole passages – perhaps even whole chapters. In my case, there should be a minimal amount of this as I strive for my first draft to be very good. Blogging – as well as many aspects of the course work for my MA – has taught me to write quickly and accurately. It comes with experience – the more you write the better you get at it.
Despite that, I know that there are quite a few passages where I need to scrap what I’ve written and rewrite afresh. My supervising lecturers, (and fellow students) have pointed out that in the early chapters I have managed to have an inconsistent and shifting point of view which is confusing to the reader. It is very important to be consistent with POV in children’s books.
In some cases only a sentence or two need rewriting; in other areas it can be as much as a paragraph or part of a chapter.
There will also be some cultural elements relating to my setting (Nepal) that I still want to include. My first draft was just getting the story down. This element of the rewriting is more fine tuning the story, adding local colour, cultural references, locally used words and expressions and so on. I’m striving for authenticity; all I have at present is the plot. (Perhaps that is being a little harsh on myself! I hope you get the point.)
Editing on the other hand is a distinct discipline. In this stage I will look at all the nitty-gritty elements of spelling, punctuation, word usage, grammar and sentence construction. It really is a nit-picking stage. Basically being an editor with a big red pencil. A bit like how I marked students’ work when I was a classroom teacher in another life.
The editing process is also distinct from the proofreading stage. This last stage is checking that everything is totally correct, that there are no typos and the finished manuscript is perfect in every way. You don’t look for elements of style or even grammar at this stage.
- Writing a novel – many articles extensively outlining the process I went through while writing a novel for children.
Searching, searching, searching – doing Research
One of the interesting aspects of writing my current novel is the research that is involved. Normally, especially when writing short stories, I have a vague idea of the plot and characters and just blaze away with the first draft. During rewriting I will tidy up the story and make it work as a story. Editing often tightens up the plot and corrects any spelling and punctuation boo-boos. There is often little scope – or need – for much background research. I usually write what I know, or draw on my fertile imagination to fill in the gaps.
Not so with a novel. With my current work in progress – the novel I’m writing as my thesis paper for my MA – I am expected to show evidence of appropriate research. This is not the way I normally work, so it is stretching me beyond my normal practices. This is good, and is what doing my MA is all about. The writing of specific short stories, poems and essays has stretched my writing skills in amazing ways.
Doing background research for my novel has had a wonderful side effect. It is giving me a deeper understanding of the setting of my novel. More about that in a future post on this blog. All I will say now is that the novel, which is being written with children as my audience in mind, is set in Nepal during the recent civil war. Soaking myself in the culture of the country is proving to be a fascinating experience; so much so I am almost forgetting to attend to the actual writing.
All this research is helping me on my journey. It is a journey of discovery, not only of an amazing culture, but also of finding out the story of my main character. He is based upon a photo I took of a boy during a visit to Nepal in 2006. I wondered: What is his story? In discovering many aspects of the culture, the country, the people and the times in which my story is set, I am discovering this boy’s story. It is a growing, organic world; it may be fiction, but it is becoming a real place for me.
I now have to make sure that the fascination with the research does not take over and replace the writing.
For more articles in this series about writing a novel click here.