This is the title of my book. But that’s not important at the moment. What is important is the importance of editing.
When I returned from my cycle trip a few weeks ago, I was not happy with the book at all. All I could think of was ten months wasted.
‘It’s crap! A joke of a novel! Laughable to the extreme! A piece of lunacy of the highest order! I should bin it immediately!’ I said to myself over and over again.
‘Do something you’re good at Oggers, cycling, running. Drinking wine, cooking chicken pie. Stick to what you know. Don’t get above your station. Go back to work.’
And on and on these things went round my head. ‘Give up! Give up! Give up!’
I got so frustrated in the end that the only thing I could do to ease my mind was to run to the Vienne a few kilometres away and dive in.
I swam hard that morning, pushing against the strong currents caused by the heavy rain the night before. Working my way up towards the bridge at Moussac. Front crawl, back stroke, breaststroke, doggy paddle. Anything to wash away the fear that had developed around my novel. My beloved novel on the verge of being destroyed by my own guilt. The guilt that I was simply not good enough to complete it and that I should give up and do something else.
However, by the time I dragged myself out of the river that morning, exhausted, I had a plan.
‘It’s too long,’ I said to Elizabeth as I lurched into the kitchen panting after the long slog up the hill from Moussac.
She looked at me blankly.
‘The novel,’ I said. ‘It’s too long. Way too long. Like a fucking bible.’
She continued to look at me. ‘Why are you wet?’
‘Don’t worry about that. Where’s that 18 cup espresso maker?’ I said dashing into my room. ‘I need to work on my book.’
Two weeks later and I’ve cut the book down from a whopping 213 pages to 132 pages. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done – writing wise at least.
I’ve cut out all the guff. All the tiresome rants. All the convoluted dialogue. All the stupid plot twists. All the tedious word plays. All the unbelievable love affairs. All the clichéd analogies. All the endless lists of short phrases like these…
What I’m left with is the story I planned to write when I started out in September. A simple story about growing up. The story we all like to hear.
So. This is what I’ve learned these past ten months:
If you’ve got a story, get the story down. If it’s one page or three hundred pages, it doesn’t matter. That’s the story. It’s very simple. But it isn’t. As I’ve found out.