Friday November 27th – Day 23
Back in the saddle and started fairly gently, as there is now no profit to be had from hurrying. Redrafting is an ordered, meticulous discipline. Outside of checking spelling and grammar, which is more proofreading than redrafting, there are other fundamental benefits: ensuring you have not omitted information necessary and relevant to the story, maintaining continuity and attending to rhythm. Accumulating and including all the information you require is readily obvious and yet it is surprisingly easy to forget details vital to the story: you can’t have your hero riding a bike if you haven’t given him one to ride; although that’s a simplified example, you’d be amazed at how easy it is to overlook such detail. Maintaining continuity is also paramount: in writing Mazzeri, a friend of mine who offered to read an early draft pointed out I had Manou drinking whisky at the beginning of a scene and brandy by the end of it; an example of the pen running faster than the mind driving it. And, the narrative has to have its own cadence, much like the pedalling of a bicycle; in the same manner each revolution has to advance efficiently from one to the next, sentences also have to advance efficiently and progressively; unwanted or unexpected interruptions stilt the natural progression of the narrative and produce inconsistent prose. This all sounds like common sense and it is; however, in one’s pursuit of the finished article, they are pitfalls easily unseen. Too much haste, as they say, usually results in less overall speed; so, nice and easy does it every time.
Perhaps more importantly, though, second drafts also allow a writer a fresh pair of eyes with which to analyse the novel as a whole and to polish the raw and often sharp-edged material into a shiny, bright story more pleasing to the eye. To use the motor racing metaphor, the author can tweak the suspension and tune the carburettor so that the vehicle runs as fast and as smoothly as possible. This is not a time to make compound changes in the pursuit of glory. Again, I’ll mix my metaphors: too much alteration risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I have only five days to complete the challenge, so I’m proofreading, tracking changes and polishing as I go. One hundred pages today and the same again tomorrow; on Sunday I’ll review the order of service.
One of my favourite novels is James Jones’s Some Came Running. Coming off the back of his critically acclaimed From Here To Eternity, Jones’s second novel was considered by many to be a fictional disaster: one critic going so far as to label it twelve hundred and sixty-six pages of flawlessly sustained tedium. Frank Sinatra starred in film versions of both novels, though that isn’t why I like either, and both movies gained Academy Award nominations, From Here To Eternity winning eight and Sinatra the best supporting actor Oscar. What draws me to Jones’s writing is his acute observation of character; he makes it possible for the reader to understand why his characters behave and react as they do. That, for me, is a prize worth pursuing.