The Art of Fiction

How do writers work? Where do writers write? How do they edit their work? Who reads the drafts? Who helps them with the editing? What can be learned from the editing process? These are all questions which I have had as a novice writer.

This week I found some magnificient interviews in the Paris Review, in which writers are interviewed at length about the writing process. I have been particularly interested to read about the process my favourite authors have gone through.

I was prompted in my search to find some examples of edited manuscripts by the comments of an editor, Ben Searle, at a recent London Meet Up. I tracked down a book edited by Jay Woodruff called A Piece of Work in which he interviewd five writers about their revisions. I have only had the book a day but have dipped in to it and found some interesting advice. I do not keep copies of the original notes and the drafts only survive if I have done a complete rewrite and saved the work in a different location. The disadvantage of this is that I cannot chart the development of the novel or the writing process. This was something brought up in the discussion with Tobias Wolff. Joyce Carol Oates, on the other hand, appeared to keep lots of notes written on different surfaces providing subsequent reviewers with a wealth of information about the way she writes.

I am currently rewriting a book I almost finished several months ago. Since I am reusing different parts of the original I am literally writing over the top of it. This process is allowing me to see how I have progressed as a writer and how my story has developed. My wish is that at the end of the process I will produce a better book.

Taking a break from normal life to write

It is the Spring half-term here in England and I am away from my teaching job for a whole week!

I have taken the opportunity to speed out of London in order to spend a few days writing in a small guesthouse. Being away from the usual distractions of noisy neighbours, the coffee machine and IKEA should help me write the final few chapters of my next novel.

I also have a hope that I might get my mojo back enough to start working on my sequel to Jam, Jerusalem and Java.

Writing back to front

Just because a story is linear, that is it starts from the beginning and finishes at the end, it does not mean that the writing of said story should be linear.

I know how my current novel is going to end and have already written the prologue which leads the reader to that point. In my head, I Have the notes and ideas for the final chapter. It’s just that there are a few chapters I have to write before I get to that point. In fact, I am writing the preceding chapters knowing already where they are going to lead.

Do I need to keep writing the story as it unfolds? Probably not but I am afraid that I might actually forgot to complete the missing chapter. I just need to give myself permission to break convention and challenge myself.