For benefit of anyone who regards this blog, or my contributions to it, as an ongoing serial – I got there. Final full stop. End of the last chapter. I have a complete manuscript. I’ve been leaving it to rest for a few days, then comes the best part: going in with the editing pencil – metaphorical in the age of technology, but still an essential, and to my mind highly enjoyable, part of the process.
And when that’s done I’ll be left with another dilemma: what do I do with all the bits I left out?
Inevitably when a novel is reworked after several years, things change. The author’s perceptions shift, and the knowledge base from which some of the background detail is drawn expands. I realized as I was reshaping this one that I needed to do more historical research to make sure my characters were in the right place at the right time; and a few items came to light, or at least into my sightlines, which I hope have enriched the world I’ve set out to create.
But the opposite happened too. I reread a few passages and realized I’d over-egged the pudding; tried to give the reader too much information, some of which really wasn’t pertinent or useful, however interesting I’d found it at the time. And some of the reshaping meant linking passages (I’ve heard them called campfire scenes by screenwriters) were no longer needed.
The result is that I have about twenty pages of redundant scenes. And I hate waste. We’re very much a recycling family, but I’m also a squirrel; I won’t throw anything away if it might be useful sometime. I have to be very firm with myself to prevent my fridge and deep freeze being stacked with little boxes containing anything from a small helping of chicken casserole to a spoonful of leftover mashed potato. And my wardrobe is stuffed with garments I really will wear again just as soon as I shed those last few pounds around my hips. And don’t get me started on the books, most of which I will never, never part with.
So it will come as no surprise when I say there are two large boxes in a cupboard in my workspace which bear the label Unfinished Projects. Unsold short stories which need more work; at least three novels which got stuck round about the 10,000-word mark; a couple of non-fiction projects which hit a research wall I never got around to circumventing. More. Much more. And that’s just the paper stuff, from before I created the archive on my computer.
I’ve made good use of redundant scenes from novels in the past; with a little adjustment they can become viable (and in some cases marketable) short stories. A whole novel of 60,000 words once got pared down to 7,000 and transformed into a dramatic monologue which actually made it on to the stage. So surely I can do something with an account of a night in a hospital ward for shell-shocked men during the First World War. And a few hundred words about a militant suffragette who put her energy to work during the war then found the world had no place for her afterwards. And... well, I haven’t really taken a proper look yet, but I know there’s more.
Sorry, blog-followers, that’s it for today. Work to do!