This one’s all about redrafting.
I’ve got mixed feelings towards the process, mainly because on one hand it’s inexplicably important and so completely necessary, and on the other it’s inexplicably hard work and so completely soul-destroying.
I’ve started to lose count of the amount of times I have gone through and edited my novel from beginning to end, believing, perhaps rather naively, that each new draft is fresh hope and one step closer to a literary agent, published book, critical acclaim, etc., etc.
I do think each version gets better. That’s kind of the whole point of redrafting. I leave enough time in between redrafts to ensure that I’ve bottled up enough patience and interest, and I don’t think there’s anything quite like coming back to your own work with fresh eyes. The sad truth is that I love reading my own book, I really do. I love coming back as a reader and an editor and watching my character’s grow and develop from the beginning. I love forgetting, in brief moments, that the words on the page are mine, as I get caught up in the story, or the emotion of a particular moment. That probably says more about my forgetfulness than the merits of my writing though…
And yet redrafting is also such a pain. As much as I love reading my own words, I also hate reading my own words. I’ve seen them so much they’ve started to lose all meaning. As I deliberate phrasing and syntax and the tiniest of words endlessly, I’m pretty sure I’ve just gone round in circles in my cycles of editing and ended up with exactly the same words I started with in the beginning.
I’m overthinking everything, constantly paranoid that every single word has to be exactly perfect which, in many ways it does. But there are 114,000 of them, so that’s quite a feat in itself.
I’ve read my own words so often, I’ve started to think of them in my head at the oddest of times. I quote them to myself without realising it, remembering a sentence or a phrase, and wondering where did I get that from? It’s a bizarre, unhealthy condition whereby I’m so entrenched within my own words, they’ve seeped into my subconscious. Is this a normal thing to happen to a writer? Or have I just read them too much? I fear the latter.
So here we are on draft what feels like #598, and I’m still going strong. I’m still whittling down the wood and polishing my diamond, hoping, perhaps against all hope, that somebody else will one day see how much it shines.
There’s only one way to the top, and I think it involves a lot of simultaneously adoring and detesting what you’ve written.
You know what you’ve got to do. As ever.