Orange popsicles and the art of letting things settle before jumping the gun
Surprisingly enough - at least for me! - I've come to the end of the novel I was writing. Part one of the series is over and done with. Well, not really, since I still have to revise and edit the whole two hundred and something pages of it! But the first draft is finished, and I've typed those elusive final words, The End. And the truth is, I am feeling quite relieved at it. I was pushing through some chapters that had to be written but weren't quite working out, thinking it would take me forever to finish those, when all of a sudden there was a sort of a breakthrough in my head, and lo! and behold, I was nearing the end. A lot is bound to change, I suppose, in that first draft, I am already doing the first revision, mainly dealing with ortography and gramatical errors, but I have already spotted a few paragraphs that have left me wondering at their need to be there.
But for now I'm not touching the content. I am still too enamoured of the story and the characters to be able to place some distance and rip apart the whole of it, searching for what shouldn't be there in the first place, redundancies, bad phrasing, icky stuff as I call it. For now I'm still under the spell of the witches and the vampires and cannot be quite the objective one about it all. I do think I have a good story there, and exciting characters, and as far as I can tell for now, it's well written and the pace is good. But after this first revision I am going to give it a couple more months to simmer and then I will push through the gross of the editing. Perhaps it won't change much, perhaps I will still look at it and think it is a great book, worthy of praise and attention, or perhaps I will find myself cringing in shame at every other paragraph. Time may tell.
See, I happen to have some experience with the cringing factor when it comes to my writings. About twenty years ago I was writing my first vampire novel. I was in my early twenties and wrote like a woman in her early twenties. I had some experience in life - I can say I had far more experience in certain aspects than any twenty year old should have - but I had no experience in words and narrative. I lacked living - instead of suffering and fearing - so I could voice the stories in my head. There were plenty, but they were all muddled up together. I began writing that novel when I was living in Manchester, but the idea for it had been in my mind since I was fifteen and first heard Mercyful Fate's Melissa. Unsurprisingly, the title for said novel was indeed Melissa. Mine was a vampire, theirs was a witch. I wrote the first couple of paragraphs and then only got back to it when I was already back in Portugal, eliciting some changes in what I had already written, namely changing the action from Manchester to London.
When I first finished it, I was quite happy with the results. I loved the characters - not in the sense that I liked them, mind you, some are quite detestable and abhorrent, and that was what I wanted to achieve, actually - I adored the story, I was quite happy with the result and the writing. Cue in nearly twenty years and the cringe is real. I re-read it a couple of years ago and by lord! it was hard. I still feel that the characters are great, the story is really good - despite the notorious Brian Lumley influences in the existence of a parallel world inhabited by vampires, that is - but the writing is simply... puerile? Childish? Barbaric, perhaps. It's not good, trust me. I kept cringing at nearly every sentence. Sometimes I think I should pick it up and re-write it altogether, but the truth is that story doesn't populate my mind anymore, those characters are over and done with, Evangeline and Melissa, Damien and Darren have had their say, and now they must make way for others to speak. But I still wonder if I could make something out of it...
I wonder if in twenty years time I will look at what I have written now, in my early forties, and feel the same way about it. I wonder if people reading my book cringe at the use of language, the narrative, the whole of the story and the dialogues. I suck at dialogues. No one really talks like that, I'm quite aware. No one. But my characters, somehow, end up doing it. I quite like what I've written so far, both the published work and the unpublished, but I seldom wonder if other people feel the same way towards it as I do when I go about reading prose from some other self published author and find myself cringing in shame for them, for how obnoxious their work is, how conceited, how presumptious. There's so much of that going round it scares me, and most of it is self published. I wonder if others regard my writings much the same way. I only wish I knew. In the meanwhile, and because I have been busy elsewhere, I came up with a bit of refreshing delicacies to help me pause and take a breather from my work. These orange popsicles. There's nothing easier than this, trust me.
These are the kind of thing that require only patience and they're great for kids. My father used to do this for me and my sister when we were kids, instead of letting us buy some pop filled with bad things and chemicals. All you have to do is squeeze the juice out of a couple of oranges and then pour it onto an ice cuvette and freeze. Midway through the freezing you insert a toothpick, or skip that altogether and have orange icecubes for your drinks! And when you or your kids, should you have them, feel like they would appreciate something fresh and sweet, there you go: orange juice, all natural and with no chemicals in it, ready for the taking. Refreshing, easy and delicious. All you need is patience, to wait for it to freeze. I wonder if I might have the same patience to wait a few years and then re-read my work and decide to publish it or not! I think I'd do better if I did, don't you?