This time an honest update on panic. Those days in between the walking and the calm professionalism when you temporarily forget that it always all comes good in the end and want to hurl the manuscript out of the window.
Also I need to tell you how much I pity my poor husband and that my best advice in all the world is to avoid novelists (aspiring or otherwise) when they are in the final throes of editing.
Here’s the story, then.
Last week I loved my MS. Last week I thought I was pretty much done.
I had ticked all the boxes re editing notes from my agent. I made the mistake of thinking I was “there”.
And then. Oops. Just one, final hurdle. New concern (after all the previous changes) over a character who is supposed to be minor but has apparently got just a bit too big for his boots.
Oh gawd! He is apparently now too dominant. Needs to become a minor, minor character. The problem is he cannot become a minor character without another quite substantial rewrite for various structural reasons I won’t bore you with.
To avoid this additional rewrite I ignore my own advice about going for long walks ( see last week) and instead regale my husband throughout most of Monday evening about why this character is so very important, not just to me but to the book. I bore with an analysis of my “motivation” list for this character. How he shines a light on so many things. How he provides action where otherwise there might be too much emotional journeying.
My husband agrees with me. Oh, but he completely understands. Poor, poor me. He will completely understand if I stand my ground.
By Tuesday I have secretly started the rewrite, not just diluting the character but taking him out .
“What are you doing?” My husband has an expression of resigned exasperation as steam pours from my computer. The house is a tip. No one has any clean underwear. Whenever a mealtime looms I suggest Tesco restaurant tokens.
“Oh I’m taking that character out now. Amazing how easily I can kill him off. Do you know. I think this final version is going to be just brilliant without him…My agent is a genius.”
My husband, whom I do not deserve but is thankfully used to all this insanity, knows exactly what line works best in this situation. For anyone new to a relationship with a writer, it is - for reference – as follows :
Daytime: “Coffee, honey?”
Later : “Wine, honey?”
PS In the midst of all this I have also just started my workshop tour of Devon libraries, sharing all my tips for writing short stories and negotiating the writer’s life. My first group were just brilliant. We had a ball. And yes – I did tell them the story of “killing your darlings”! How they laughed…