I’m now two-thirds of the way through this story I first did about seven years ago. At first I thought I was going to have to re-write the lot (see “The Next Story”). Then I found I was importing whole chunks of text from the old version, because I couldn’t see that it was worth doing that bit of imagination all over again. What’s emerging now is a blend of old and new. So here’s the interesting question - what am I doing differently, after seven years of professional writing? How have I improved – and what have I lost?
The thing that hasn’t changed is what I want to happen. The story is about a young bronze-age warrior who has six sisters. And then this happens to them and then that and that and so on all the way to the ending as I imagined it all that time ago. Also the basics of the setting are the same – an isolated little world, a landscape of hills and forests, firelight and shadows and the presence of the sea. It’s a fantasy, but the fantastical elements are not obvious to the eye. In fact it’s very similar to the setting of The Cup of the World and its sequels, except that the culture of the people is more primitive.
What’s changed very much is the way I tell the story. I’ve introduced a narrator. This was someone who is very important at the end, but her presence needs to be felt throughout – and now it is. I let the reader discover important facts much earlier in the telling, rather than springing them right at the end. That’s because I have greater self-confidence. I don’t need to hide stuff as much as I do.
I’ve made the language less pompous. The main characters don’t say ‘is not’, they say ‘isn’t’, just as we would. I use fewer adjectives and fancy phrases. I want to make it easier to read what I’ve written.
I’m less shy about the romance. Seven years ago I wrote all that bit through they eyes of a third party, very much from the outside. Now it’s one of the most interesting questions – why does she go with him? So there are new scenes, seen from her point of view, that tell you why. I’m paying altogether more attention to the women. They are supposed to be spirits in their world. So what’s it like, being a spirit?
Some of this I think I would have done anyway if I had started re-writing immediately, seven years ago. The emphasis of a book often shifts as you re-work it. Stuff that is under-stated at first does get brought out – sometimes at the expense of things that you had originally thought were more important. But I think my idea of who my readers will be has changed. They’re less patient. They want more things explained. They want more love and less agonising. They want to turn the pages, find out what happens - things like that.
And so do I.