Notes from a Writer’s Life #3

Re-read, Re-write, Recycle…

Nothing is ever wasted when you recycle…

The read through of Bleak Waters is complete and it’s onto revisions.

The first thing I decided to do was nail down the timeline of events. There’s a complex back-story to this one and I wanted to get all the dates of the events in order before I started re-writing.

Working out the timeline also gave me the opportunity to reconsider the back story afresh, although this time with the hindsight of having written one draft and being aware of that draft’s issues.

One of the biggest problems in draft one was that the back story as written was full of plot holes that undermined the credibility of the whole story.

Reviewing the timeline became an opportunity to find a way to fill those holes without compromising the whole story.

Fortunately for me, the solution to those problems already existed as the back story to a project that has been sitting in writing purgatory for several years now.

Back in 2008/09 I was working on a novel called Ruins.

Like Bleak Waters, Ruins was set on the Norfolk Broads, Ruins in Potter Heigham, Bleak Waters in Hickling.

Over the years I’ve done about a dozen drafts of Ruins, but none of them have ever quite worked, and the novel has never reached the stage where I think it’s ready for submission.

As a result, its languishing in my files, waiting for its annual round of read throughs and revisions in the hope that this time I’ll finally fix it.

I never do.

But as I started working through the plot holes for Bleak Waters I realised that most of them could be solved by incorporating one of the storylines from Ruins into the story.

The few that do remain can be cut without any major damage to the story. In fact, cutting them makes the story stronger structurally as well, as well as giving added importance to the ghostly elements of the story.

None of the actual text from Ruins will be incorporated into Bleak Waters. But a few of the characters from that story will find their way in, again at the expense of weaker characters from Bleak Waters.

What does this all mean practically?

A lot of rewriting. Some parts will need minor revisions, other parts more major surgery. And some scenes and chapters will be removed altogether.

But they won’t ever be gone. They’ll sit in my files, and maybe one day, a few projects down the line, they’ll be recycled into another story as well.

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