Insecurities of Writing

A couple of weeks ago I handed over my manuscript to my editor– after a big structural reworking. It had required a lot of re-writing, development etc to address the points (and there were at least 6 pages of points) from our editorial meeting.

The problem is once I’m home, letting go of particular phrases I might like the sound of because they don’t fit, or having to change aspects of the plot and therefore lose some element I like can prove quite hard. However, I try very hard to ‘let go’ and use my editor’s criticism to develop the novel.

I recently finished reading a mammoth novel (not about woolly creatures) but around 450 pages in length. It is by a ‘brand name’ author– incredibly successful and prolific. I hated it. There were passages that ‘clunked’ , descriptions that were cringe worthy, character development that was totally ludicrous and I came to the conclusion that good writing is like beautiful light fittings– the lovelier they are the less you notice them– the more ostentatious and elaborate the more intrusive they feel. I wonder if once an author reaches a certain level they just don’t listen to their editor any more– or maybe an editor is too ‘in awe’ to really comment. Then, do very successful writers get worse– the more they write?

I’m probably suffering from second book syndrome– the fear that the second will not live up to the first. And worse that it might not surpass it. I remember listening to Tim Winton on writing and he was asked “have you written your best work yet?” I remember slapping my steering wheel (I was driving at the time!!) and declaring loudly– for him, “Of course not.” To my mind no one has ever produced their best work until they are dead– otherwise what’s the point in trying?? But he was a little more (humble?) reserved in his answer– and said “May be not yet.”

So, my editor rang me today– to ask if she could edit directly onto the computer screen (as opposed to hard copy– which I then accept or reject). Of course I said– go for it. Anything that sounds awkward or laboured cut it– go to work with that editorial pen and carve the sucker up. I want to become a better writer– not a worse one. Besides behind every successful novel there has to be a good writer but an even better editor.

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