After a three-month hiatus I surprised myself last Friday morning. I sat down and began writing the second draft of the novel. It feels as if I’ve completely started over. The story and the characters have evolved like I’ve woken to a new day. And so far it’s feeling damn good; I only hope this feeling lasts.
I’d actually made tentative steps into a rewrite late spring but then I lay the metaphorical pen down. I heeded the advice of SJ Bradley, my mentor on The Womentoring Project, who’d told me to step back and to take my time writing this piece, years if I have to. The last few months have shown me how right she was. I didn’t spend the time sitting on my hands though. She gave me exercises; dialogue placing my characters in a variety of situations outside of the actual story. The result, I now have new scenes to add to the narrative… I also wrote monologue after monologue for my main character, and how she felt towards the circle of her closest relationships (mum, dad, boyfriend, brother etc)…. I’ve really gotten to know her. And it wasn’t just her. All my characters have solid lines now. They all inhabit an inner world, talking and relating to each other when I am unaware, and when I’m asleep. So when I returned to the story last week their detail was florid, and I was eager to let their lives flow onto the page.
I was also nervous. Was my story up to it? Was it as cool as I first thought. I kept rereading paragraphs over and over allowing a barrel full of doubt to flow in through the hesitant cracks. A flash flood of apprehension. It reminded me when I used to buy records. I would spend hours making my way through a tiny skyscraper of vinyl, and after an hour or so my ears had become desensitised, half deaf to the rhythms. I couldn’t hear the music anymore. I certainly couldn’t discern between the wheat and the chaff, which was a good track and which wasn’t. And it was a little like that when I obsessed over the prose again.
Then I remembered. It wasn’t me writing the story. It was my character, and hadn’t I gotten to know her so well over the summer? So for the time being, I placed my need for flouncy description aside, and let her, my main character do the talking. This was her narration, her depiction of events. It was her on the page. Not me. The words became simpler, clearer. I haven’t looked back.
There’s a lot to be said for taking time off between drafts. The process is truly alchemical. In doing nothing and creating space something magical has occurred. The story is beginning to come together, it’s writing itself. Who knows what subtle nuances my characters will reveal of themselves in future drafts… exciting eh?