Buenos Aires, John O'Groat Journal, Novel

That second draft: Starting over again

I came home from the Big Book Tour for my novel When the Boats Come Home on Wednesday afternoon, exhilarated and tired. I said hello to the cat, opened the post, checked in with my friends and my church, restocked the larder, and rested.

But you can only rest for so long. And one of the great things about the Book Tour was how many people wanted to know when the next book would be out. So on Friday, I bit the bullet and contacted Paul, my publisher, to check on the deadline we’d discussed before I left. Yes, he said: end-August, at the latest if we’re going to get the book out for the first week of December.That gives me 7 weeks to work on it. And knowing me, and the way of books, I reckon I’ll need more than just one revise/rewrite. So this morning, I declared Start time on the second draft of ‘The Mizpah Ring’ (working title!).

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I’m one of the world’s gifted procrastinators – so it is with delight that I can tell you that putting it off till today has benefited the work. Time has lent that precious distance that produces a measure of objectivity – and a decisive finger on the delete button!

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I underwrite – I have done so since my stint on my local newspaper, The John O’Groat Journal, way back in 1967. I write fast, following the story, without descriptions or scene-setting. So the second draft is when I not only have to remove the stuff that would come back to haunt me (not so much purple passages as infelicities, grammatical clumsinesses, people called two different names in succeeding chapters etc.) but also slow down the tearing story to make sure my reader has enough information to see what is happening.

And here my trip has helped me – conversations with my sister brought to light more snippets of family history which will be inserted in the story, what I saw on our walks will furnish my previously minimalist  scenes as will a friend’s memories of a recent trip to Buenos Aires. I’ve come home with a goodie-bag of information, insights and ideas that will enrich and enhance the book.

It isn’t quite at that plastic stage when you feel it’s mouldable, willing to be shaped into what you really want – but it’s received me back in a surprisingly friendly and open fashion. Rather like the cat. I’d expected her to be a bit huffy for a day or two but instead shewelcomed me back with purring cheerful friendliness.

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So it’s Day One and I’ve made a start. I’m aiming for the discipline again of an hour each morning, but I’d really like a minimum of two chapters each day worked through and got as near to final as I can make them. The work is on!