Am I Boring You Yet?


Stop me if this is getting tedious, but I’m finding the project involving transcribing my thirty year old first draft first novel to be endlessly fascinating, just from the perspective of writing.

This is a story based on a two-year period of my life, nearly forty years ago, which I fictionalised for the purposes of the novel, so I’m dealing with my younger self on two levels: the near forty year ago version who lived the original events, and the thirty year ago version who translated them into fiction.

The interesting thing is that I’m really starting to get into the story! I’m transcribing it a chapter at a time, and saving each chapter as a separate document, so when I finish a chapter, I then extract the next one, give it a quick read, and then carry on.

I finished chapter 7 late on Friday night, after work, and read chapter 8 before going to sleep. The completed chapter ended phase one of the story, and the new one took a great leap forward, over several months of story time, and created a bit of a transition between the two stages.

I found myself pleasantly impressed by chapter 8, enough so that I completed the transcription over the weekend (I was neither doing anything else nor going anywhere for various reasons). And the primary reason for this was that I wanted to read chapter 9, and see where the story goes from there!

This is a thirty year old work. It may be based on my life between 1978 and 1980, but I did a good and careful job of disconnecting what happens in the book from what happened in real life, and now I can’t remember more than a handful of things from the fiction, and I am growing steadily more engrossed in this book, to the point where I could quite easily read the whole damned thing in a single sitting, for the primitive reason of finding out What Happens Next.

I’m determined not to do so. This has got to be one chapter at a time.

Of equal interest (to me as the writer) was my reaction to transcribing the chapter line by line. Whilst overall I found the chapter reasonably impressive on a read-through, and whilst there were more subtleties that I hadn’t anticipated, at the same time, I found more than the usual number of points where I wanted to start re-writing. That is absolutely forbidden until the whole thing has been copied up, but along the way I’ve been adding the odd word, half-sentence, phrase etc., using a different font-colour to distinguish these, where second draft ideas suggest themselves. These are place-markers, and this time I wound up with more of them than in practically the whole book so far.

And each and every one represented a point where my imagination, in 1987, was too narrow, where it remained in my fictional self and took too little account of the other people in this increasingly solid universe, where now I see broader implications that I want to start following up, but for now can only indicate in these pointers in red.

Mark my words, when this is done I’m going to print up a Lulu.com copy just for myself, that’s never going to be publicly available, but the Second Draft is now a given and I can see things turning out to be vastly different from the version I’m reading now.

I can hardly wait, but I’m going to have to. And I’m reading my way back into what I once wrote one chapter at a time. Where is this story going?

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