Rip it up

So: Night Shift is back with the agent. I wait nervously, the e-mail of Damocles hanging over me. I have no idea if it’s good enough. I’m sure this draft is considerably better than the last, but is it now in a saleable condition? I vacillate by the moment, optimism and depression warring within me.

Strictly speaking this doesn’t really change anything. I’ve improved my work, that’s what matters. If things don’t go anywhere with this particular judge then I can always go back to the well and try again. Plenty more opportunities out there.

But I want to get an agent. Soon. Partly because – well, we all want to sell our work, right? We all want a professional to tell us they like our work. And partly because I want to get on with something new.

I love writing. I adore it. My mind is full of stories and I want to work on new things all the time. I mean, I enjoy editing and making changes too – but my plate is full with four novels that need developing. I don’t feel I can crack on with something new until at least one or two of them are crossed off the list. I want them out there so I can’t tinker with them any more. I want to be hammering hot steel again, not sitting with my whetstone.

At the moment – a fortnight or so since the NS MS went in – I’m taking things kinda easy. Trying to finish the perpetual redraft of Chivalry is a sort of background to everything now. But my real focus for the next few months is going to be Australis.

If you remember, Australis is the sequel to Night Shift and is proving something of a problem child. I wrote it back-to-back with NS and, at the time, thought it was much better. Since then – nearly a year and a half ago now – NS has improved considerably and I’ve never really got to grips with Australis.

The problem is that Australis works. The plot’s fine, I introduce some good, strong ideas and it’s still a story that interests me. But what I’ve written… it just doesn’t sparkle. I don’t know why. I think there are too many sections (and one is too many) that I wrote not sure what I was trying to say, but because no-one ever objected to their presence I let them be, tinkering only with the words and not with the underlying structure.

Now I’m trying to go through with a combine harvester, ripping up these sections and spitting out wheat and chaff to be either discarded or reworked. It’s hard. It’s basically rewriting the whole book, keeping only characters and events; and whilst most of my redrafts take only a few weeks at Rob-speed, this I anticipate will take a lot longer. Sometimes it’s painful, abandoning things I fundamentally like in exchange for a better story. Sometimes it’s painful because I’m forced to face up to my own lazy writing.

But I don’t just do this to get published, or to get recognition, or money, or sex, or whatever. I want to write the best possible book I can. I want people to think ‘hey, that guy can write.’ Maybe it’s for ignoble reasons of ego and pride, but I want people to read my work because they want to, not because they feel obliged.

So it’s time to rip Australis to pieces. To enjoy working without a deadline, take my time and really make the damn thing work. Because I need that novel – without Australis there’ll be no New Gods. Gotta have the second before the third. I can do this. Just gonna take work and application and some deep thought. New characters, old ones shifting, emphases changing…

Let’s go to work.

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