Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Pigs wallow, so why not amateur authors?

In a sense no one else need read this; it is a memo to myself, celebrating one of those events which is personal, transient and mouselike. If I were delusional I might say I have finished Stall Recovered and it runs to 119,154 words. But I must be pedantic; the only thing that’s complete is the first draft. Much will change. Anglicisms will be drawn like rotten teeth from the mouths of Americans, repetitive phrases I have over-loved will disappear, unnecessary sentences (“He looked at her face.”) – the clues to passing incompetence - will be sighed over and removed, inconsistences shuddered at and replaced, and an inordinate total of italicised French words will diminish.

Why allow these defect to appear in the first place? Evelyn Waugh, the great stylist, wrote his drafts in one go in fountain pen and no tinkering was necessary. But amateur brains are less well organised. In engaging on such a foolhardy project as a novel one twists and untwists many themes while simultaneously visiting the past and the future. Verb tenses hint at the temporal tangle; when you find yourself forced to use “had had” you may need to go back a couple of paras and simplify time.

Why write a novel? Because you have an idea you’d like to test. A character you’re rather in love with. Or because you’re tempted as you might be by woodwork. If you’ve tried to write other novels then there’s the dubious thrill of re-entering an obsessional world which will cause you to avoid household necessities and social obligations. Another justification is boasting. Some people are gently impressed, mainly by the task of putting together such a vast number of words. Quality or meaning are less important.

Have I got the germ of an idea for the next one? asks Mrs BB. No I haven’t. Just let me wallow for a minute or two.