The weirdest part about revising, for me, is that moment when I sit down with a fresh print out of my novel, look down at page one, and realise I have no recollection at all of writing it.
Over the course of 80,000 or so words, my story, character and theme have inevitably wandered, grown and developed beyond what I envisioned for them when I wrote my opening paragraphs. It doesn’t seem to matter how fully I’ve plotted and planned the whole book before writing, the very act of getting the story down on the page seems to change it.
This makes for more thorough revising, of course, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The things I learn about my story, my theme and my characters in the writing make each of them deeper, more resonant, more meaningful. Which is why the revision is often about dragging these new depths backwards through the book, giving the earlier sections the same feel and meaning as the latter parts.
The book I’m revising at the moment, Breaking the Spell, breaks the mould, though.The first half was written several years ago, and edited extensively with the help of my then agent. The second half was written in a flurry of excitement earlier this summer when I decided I wanted to resurrect the book. So the first half is measured, layered, detailed… and in a completely different writing style to the one I’ve cultivated since then. The second half sounds like me, but is rushed, sparse on detail and a little one dimensional in places.
The challenge of making the two halves blend together, until they sound like one story, one writer, one moment in time, is a big one. Which is why getting this book right is my only goal for the next couple of months. I really want to get this right.
So it’s back to the beginning for me!