Murder on my Mind
I’m talking about old story files. Some with unrecognisable names – only to open the doc and discover that “Baldy” and “Blue Cap Boy” were early renderings of my Nelson title “Darcy Devlin and the Mystery Boy”. Funny to read some of those early drafts. Characters names changed, plots changed, my God, the writing quality changed. Looking back I can see how far my writing has come.
It was inspiring to find some old friends, a few who may yet see print. Some stood up well to a revisit and are now resaved in a current folder to work on. Some pieces sent me ducking for cover. Oooh! Did I write that? A few I’m embarrassed to say were even sent out to publishers: way too prematurely without earning the price of their postage.
It was fantastic to see the metamorphous of most stories. How they developed and improved and then found publication. (Not too many fell onto the page and converted to contracts, though a select few did.) The exercise proved the endurance of my apprenticeship, which is what I believe this past decade plus to be.
Thank goodness, most manuscripts improve dramatically with redrafting. This proved itself even more when I opened an early version of my current adult historical novel. I thought it was developing pretty well a couple of years ago, but I laugh now to see the overwriting and so many bits that are now gone. Some that I loved too. Then there were the gems that have been there from the start.
In the last couple of months, I’ve had murder on my mind. So many of my darlings to kill; some beautifully crafted sentences and descriptions that I worked and reworked, tweaked and loved, yet still had to guillotine and be ruthless about which had earned their place. Did they push forward the story, the characters, the plot? Sadly, some did not. They had to go. Some spent weeks highlighted in yellow because I did not want to give them up. And then as I read the manuscript without those words, I could see they did not need to be there.
Of course, I kept those that add atmosphere, setting and tone to the story, but I became hard-hearted as to which did and did not add to these things. Sometimes, the words were not too shabby (even if I do say so myself) but too much detail. Hit that delete button.
I also worked hard at turning my main character’s face to the camera. Turning exposition and narration into her viewpoint, which in turn reduced extraneous detail. All of it beautiful prose, I’ve been told, but not all of it necessary. So cut – more words gone.
I even chopped another character out of existence. She was a lovely moment in the story with a couple of loose connections, but she had no impact on the story or real reason for existing beyond set decoration. Goodbye Lily.
I can honestly say the manuscript is tighter for these departures. The pace has picked up and in turn I believe the page turning drive increased.
What a journey? What a rollercoaster ride?
It’s been fantastic looking back where I’ve come from, but I’m totally excited at where I’m heading with my historical novel not too far off ready to go out into the world.
What’s your writing journey? Where are you on the path? How many drafts do you do? Or do you find, like me, as many as it takes?