5 Months Later

Christmas baubleThis post is probably entirely unnecessary, but it wouldn’t be the first time one of my posts could be described that way.

Five months ago I published on this blog the final instalment of Fare Game, the story that triggered the very existence of this blog. It was an experiment at a number of levels, and a good one, too.

This morning I marked as ‘Private’ the last 20 or so posts, roughly comprising the second half of the story. They no longer appear here. I did it because I’m a writer first and a blogger second and as I move further through the process of re-establishing myself – mcphoenix like – as a writer, it seemed like the right thing to do and the right time.

In the last 5 months I have:

  • Sent Fare Game to my agent and then, via her, out to publishing houses (no success)
  • Gone back to a previous manuscript – Christmas – and with the help of a work-shopping process expertly conducted by Antoni Jach, done a massive rewrite of the story
  • Sent Christmas to my agent and to the first prospective publisher
  • Begun the process of going back to Fare Game to embark on a rewrite

Those bullet points sound pretty damn uninspiring but that’s not the case. The work-shopping, both in its orchestration by Antoni Jach and its participation by the other writers, has been revelatory for me.

I hesitated before using that word: revelatory. I sat in front of the keyboard, fingers hovering, asking myself whether that was overstating the impact of the process. I decided it was the right word.

In fact, I’m now glad that Christmas (previously titled Four Kinds of Christmas / Christmas with Ruby / The Unpublished Manuscript* Gathering Dust in the Bottom Draw) didn’t get published 3-4 years ago because I got to go through the rewriting process with the assistance of Antoni and the work-shopping group, and I discovered and rediscovered a number of ways to improve my manuscript and, more generally, to improve my writing.

*I initially had Piece of Shit instead of Manuscript in that optional title, but I thought better of it.

The discovery led me to change the structure considerably, change the ending (now redemptive rather than ambiguous) and make more of the relationship between two of the main characters so that the changed ending could be delivered.

The rediscovery related to the ‘spareness’ of my writing, which had been lost and replaced by a paunch. I didn’t even notice the paunch, but others pointed it out. In many ways, this was amongst the most exciting of the benefits of the work-shopping. I knew my writing wasn’t quite delivering what I intended it should, but I didn’t realise it’d had grown a paunch or that the paunch was largely responsible for the disconnect between intention and delivery.

That I can now see it so clearly leaves me wondering how I could ever have missed it, but also pretty damn excited about the prospects it brings. A spare style was a hallmark of my first book (Burning Sunday, published way back in 1999) and now that I have rediscovered the voice, the eye, the discipline required to deliver it, I want to apply it not only to Christmas, but also to Fare Game.

I have other changes in mind for Fare Game, as well:

  • Change to first person intimate narrator. It will be Driver, although I may have Minnie also give first person accounts. This means the current narrator, the journalist, will become a side-character
  • Expand on the plot-line between Driver and Minnie and introduce Minnie’s importance earlier. The story opens with Driver picking up Punter and, from the first scene, it reads like a gritty piece of crime fiction – at least, that’s the feedback from publishers. But while the plot line following Punter’s revenge against Frank Postman is important, it isn’t the main story
  • Cut out the paunch. This isn’t just about removing unnecessary words. Their removal changes the aesthetic of the story and its characters, particularly in combination with the switch to first person point-of-view. So I expect the plot will also change in ways I don’t yet know. My characters will tell me how to change the story, as they re-emerge.

And then there are well-developed ideas to for two more new stories. Plenty of work to do. Looking forward to it.