Friday, 8 October 2010

Blood on the floor

Having only gotten into this writing lark over the last couple of years, I know I'm still learning.  And there's something I've noticed about the way I edit.  Something, to me, which seems a little odd.  My first drafts always come out as more of a free flowing stream of consciousness, ragged and broken.  I know when I've finished the first draft somewhere beneath all the chaos  is,  hopefully, decent story. 

Then comes the editing.

When I go through the editing process, I know I'm not purely reading the words.  I don't necessarily trim and cut specific words on merit.  It's more about how they sound.  It's not even how they sound, not really.  It's more about the rhythm of the words, like a beat.  A wrong word, to me sticks out a mile by the way it makes the narrative skip a beat, like a needle sticking on a record player.  And I go through, and I listen to the rhythm beneath the words.  A word never looks wrong.  It feels wrong.  And it is a real physical feeling, like a turning of the stomach.

Editing in this visceral, I suppose intuitve, way can be exhausting, and I often get to the end without quite knowing how I got there.  Without really knowing what any of it means.  It just feels right.

And I'm worried cos I'm startin this university course, which will include Creative Writing,  and I'm so used  to writing and editing in this idiosyncratic fashion I've got with long sentences and short sentences and missed off word endings and loads of swearing and shit, or with a distant anonymous narrative voice replete with odd allusions and stuff, I'm worried they're goin to want me to conform to the conventions of a university institution, else thinking me some sort of honourable member of the illiterati or something.

Thing is, me and Mr Conform-You-Bastard have never been the greatest mates . . .  and I can see blood on the floor already . . .


  1. I'd suggest keeping your voice. It's that voice that has earned you your readers. And I reckon you can always tell when a writer is trying too hard and forcing the prose. For this course why not play ball with them to get through it and achieve it but keep on working in your own style on the sly.

  2. Funny you should say that, Lee. That's what I did when I qualified as a counsellor, although I didn't have such a strong writing voice then, just . . . opinions. With this course, though, the OU English Lit. degree, one of the modules will be Creative Writing - writing prompts, Flash, short stories, etc. Might even show the tutor one of my stories at the first tutorial, see what they think.

    Now that'll be interesting . . . ;)