It’s Saturday morning and in my pyjamas and bathrobe I’ve finally finished the third draft of Chocolates On My Pillow. I will honestly say admit that the final third is still very weak but as it’s only the third draft it’s okay. And an improvement on the second draft when the first two thirds were very weak and I couldn’t remember the plot because it had been so long. Now that I can actually remember what I rewrote, I know where I need to strengthen it. I know what needs to be changed and what needs to die by the wayside.
Editing is at once the most annoying and the most uplifting task. You go over the same material again and again, you relive scenes and dialogue till you know it backwards in your sleep. It’s monotonous and repetitive and dull. On the one hand. Because it’s also where your story truly begins to take shape. The first draft is like the foundations of a house. You can still see the bricks, the roof isn’t in place and you’ve left out something really fundamental, like the bathroom. But by the time you get to the fourth draft the view has changed. The roof is now just missing a few tiles, the windows are all there and some of the rooms have even been painted. That bathroom you left out is now looking fantastic! There are no pictures on the walls yet, but you have a very good idea of where they’re doing. If you close your eyes really tightly, you can almost see your characters drinking coffee in the kitchen or having a barbecue in the garden.
That’s the best part about editing. Seeing your characters come to life. Become real people. Decorating that house, putting the pictures on the wall, filling the kitchen with the scent of vanilla and chocolate.
In about four more drafts, your editor will tell you if there are too many ornaments, so listen to them. If they tell you the walls are too bare, listen to them.
I used to flip houses, and my favourite time was about halfway through a project. All the horrible wallpaper had been removed, the new kitchen was in almost in place and the doors had had their first three coats of paint. (This was in Spain where it took at least seven coats of white to turn that brown 1970s stain around.) The best part was still to come and I couldn’t wait to dive right into it.
Which is what I’m going to do for the rest of the afternoon.
Although part of me really wants to go to IKEA…