Saturday, 25 October 2008

Criticism Catherine Johnson

I have spent most of this autumn doing rewrites on two books, which I hope will make it out next year. The most memorable thing I ever read about rewrites was by Frank Cottrell Boyce who reminded us writers how blessed we are to have a chance to make things work a second (or third, or fourth time). Wouldn’t any (Spurs especially) striker love a chance to say, “Hang on, can you not let me take that kick again, I know I’ll get it in this time….”

We writers are so lucky. Apart from having a job we can do in our pyjamas – or stark naked if the mood takes us - we get someone to read through our work and point out all those places we know are lacking but hope no one else has noticed. And then fix them.

But I have this weird reflex. I read the notes through the first time and the words go straight over my head, straight past my ears because I really don’t want to hear them at all. It’s like Bart Simpson when he listens to Mrs Krabappel in class, all I hear that first time is blah, blah, blah…. It takes at least three straight readings and then a load of deep breaths and a read through of the work (which I’ve not looked at for months – in this case since July) to get it into my thick head what has to be done.

And it’s always the last thing to do on my list. After knitting socks and baking bread (no cleaning though).

One other quick - and stupid - thing. I’ve noticed the book for next year, The Munro Inheritance – yes, yes, the one I still haven’t finished the revisions for – is up on Amazon. My heart fairly leapt to see it, I suppose it’s a bit like your babies’ first scan, indistinct, no real picture but a blurb that reads full of promise of what might be if you hit the mark. It’s full of possibilities and hope and even though I try and be cynical and writer-world-weary I can’t help feeling excited.

1 comment:

adele said...

You, too, Catherine, look just like you do today in this lovely picture. As for revisions, well, I agree of course but have to say there comes a point when returning to the manuscript becomes counterproductive. You begin to get the impression, if you are brought back to pick at a story too often, that the editor wants quite another book from the one you've written. Then it's time to draw a line under revisions. Going over something twice for an editor is fine. Six times is not fine...I'm not referring to odd words and line editing changes. I'm talking rewrites. I think even Spurs strikers would walk away after missing the goal mouth a few times!