More brutally exacting than #amwriting.
Less enjoyably forensic than #amediting.
In the case of my sci-fi novel Summer at the Methane Lakes (to be published by Blowfish Books in December), it’s a root and branch restructuring: I’ve got a more coherent plot line and a massively expanded premise; there’s now a second narrative voice which has given rise to a new two part configuration. Characters have evolved, been given personality transplants and fresh back stories (as though in a witness protection programme), disappeared completely. New actors have strolled on to the set. In the original version of the novel, the two main protagonists didn’t meet until the end of the book. Now they’re old friends – with benefits!
When I breezily finished the first proper draft (what I was then calling ‘the final draft’) back in 2014, I thought I was almost there: all it needed was a really good professional copy edit I told myself. How wrong I was! Following a couple of bruising (but useful) early encounters with freelance editors, ongoing brainstorming with my partner Jane, other feedback and general ‘incubating’, I started rewriting the book. Several rewrites followed. But they were like layers of paint (better, tighter writing) applied to a crumbling wall (a hopelessly weak plot). I had to face up to it: my novel was a series of whimsical episodes linked tenuously together (albeit with a time-honoured reveal at the end).
If I’m really honest, I think I felt (a hunch that was as naïve as it was arrogant) that the book should succeed simply because of the sheer originality of its premise: a story, set 200 years in the future, about a nostalgic world – 1950s America – recreated in a biosphere on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
But of course that interesting concept in itself was nowhere near enough to launch a book successfully. So, more recently, my rewrites have been big world-altering changes. I would start a rewrite, get several thousand words down, and then realize with that sickening drop in the solar plexus, that this latest idea just wasn’t going to work either. I would highlight the whole damn lot and hit ‘delete’. Talk about slash and burn! I had this sense that as I forged through the virgin forest of my new writing, what remained of the original version was sort of unraveling.
It needed a proper rethink and a little planning: a logically worked out ‘macro’ back story, and, it turned out, a radically different structure – hence the two part arrangement: in Part 1, the first protagonist, a charming rogue by the name of Leonard (who had previously been little more than a gritty voice in a series of diary entries) goes undercover on Titan; in Part 2, our second protagonist, Karen, a spirited post grad student with a troubled past, goes looking for him.
I can’t wait to introduce these guys to you properly later this year. In the meantime, please do watch this blog space!