Catch of the Day (Update)

25 Sep

Editing a manuscript is a lot of hard work. In many ways, it’s harder than writing a novel in the first place. It’s the point where you fix all the things that are wrong with the first draft and produce the story you wanted to tell in the first place. I’m now on iteration #3. The story has improved with each telling. Part One – 1973 is now in a very good place. Part Two – 1974 still requires a bit of work.

I once heard Iain Rankin give an interview, where he claimed he didn’t who the villain of the novel was when he was writing the first draft, and only discovered once he reached the end. I know that feeling. All great heroes need an enemy. For the story to work, the enemy has to want the same thing as the hero. Both must remain steadfast in their pursuit of this thing. I thought I knew who the enemy was at the outset, but as I came to know my characters it was obvious that my initial choice of enemy was wrong. He was annoying lad – an idiot even – but he was a little too divorced from the action to be the real baddie of the piece. The real enemy made himself known as the story unfolded, and he wasn’t who I thought he was. This was both confounding and delightful.

Once I knew who the real enemy was and what he’d done to my main character throughout the story, albeit hidden from view, I was able to build all this into the second draft. Every move that the enemy makes is plotted and in the open, but also invisible. By the time that Pogsy, my young hero, gets his first real slap to the face – the enemy’s plans are well under way. The depth of duplicity is both joyous and sickening. Joyous, in that I love it when a plot comes together, and sickening because I hate giving my favourite characters a hard time. It’s necessary though. A character cannot grow if they have it easy. The one thing that has held Pogsy back throughout his young life is a paralysing fear of public speaking. Ultimately, he discovers that the only way he can overcome his enemy is to overcome his worst fears.

With each act of bravery by the hero comes an act of skullduggery by his enemy. It escalates to a point where something really serious is coming and the reader knows there’s no way it can be avoided. The astute reader will work out from the clues what’s coming well before Pogsy, and this makes it even worse. It was gut-wrenching to write, but also very satisfying.

Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve produced. The last few months have been pretty haphazard as far as progress is concerned. The whole thing has taken far longer than I ever imagined. I thought it would by 9 months at most. It’s taken nearer 15. Whilst I enjoy creative writing, it doesn’t pay the bills. Cyber Security does that.

It’s time to go back to work.

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