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In which I reveal too much information.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 06 November 2013
One of the dangers of the new social media is the risk of the over-share. (I rather love this neologism. I imagine it has evolved from the American ‘share with the group’, which was once deadly serious, heard in therapy rooms all over California, before it wound its way to old Blighty and took on an ironical twist.) I can sometimes be shy and reticent, but when I get excited I turn into Miss Overshare.

In the last few weeks, my deadline frenzy reached such a pitch that I took to sending out despatches from the front line. Every word count, every battle with a paragraph, every unexpected new character - all were marked. The details were not told; it was the mechanics which I was recording. It was what was going on under the hood.

I didn’t think about this much, because all my mind was bent on getting the unwieldy manuscript ready for the poor agent’s waiting eyes. But now the thing has gone off, and I have time again to contemplate other things, and I realise that I have given away the game.

I may finally lift my head from my computer screen long enough to see the wild autumn colours.I may finally lift my head from my computer screen long enough to see the wild autumn colours.

You see, I’m supposed to be a pro. There is the echoing sound of hollow laughter when I say this, because I always feel a little bogus, as if I am about to be found out at any moment, as if the tap on the shoulder will come, and the literary police will tell me I am busted. My methods over the last weeks have been about as unprofessional as they come. I’ve pulled all-nighters, with pots of black coffee, just as if I were back at university in the crabbed grasp of an essay crisis. I’ve done thirteen-hour non-stop editing sessions. I’ve had days of writing five thousand words at a time, which sounds impressive, but is a poor way to build a book. I’ve given in to the occasional use of strong liquor and Bob Dylan at full blast. And worst of all, I have admitted all this, out there in the public square.

I think: this is not how Martin Amis does it. I don’t expect Antonia Byatt yips and howls and shrieks all over Facebook and Twitter about her angst and her deadlines and her word counts. I don’t see Will Self sending out intemperate updates at two in the morning as he works through the night.

This person has absolutely no interest in word counts, but is very happy to have the autumn sun on her back.This person has absolutely no interest in word counts, but is very happy to have the autumn sun on her back.

Flaubert used to say: be bourgeois in your life so that you may be wild in your writing. I was just wild. And instead of keeping it a secret, I shared with the entire group.

The responses to my reckless revelations were astonishingly kind. The internet is not always a place of anger and bad manners. Complete strangers said well done, or go on, or I’m sure it will be brilliant. (This touching faith made me feel encouraged and oddly moved, but also even more bogus than before.)

In amidst the kindness was the fascinating revelation that most people have no idea of how producing a book works. Because this is my ABC, I assumed that everyone knows it. As charming people wanted to know where they could buy the thing, as if it would be available on Amazon tomorrow, I had to explain that this was only first draft, the earliest of early days, that there was nothing even approaching a publication date. That initial piling up of words, the messy, muddling 139,000, is just the most hesitant of first steps.

It is some kind of achievement, I suppose, but it is now that the real work starts. There will be eight or ten more drafts before it can go out in public. There will be slashing and cutting and chopping, reworking and shaping and moulding. Some characters will disappear altogether. Cherished scenes will have to go. Beloved themes will be relentlessly removed. You have to kill your darlings, say the wise people, and they are right. The Dead Darlings file will be bulging before I am finished.

If anyone ever asks me what writing is, I say: rewriting. That’s the difference between the amateur and the professional. It’s rewriting and rewriting, and rewriting again. You have to be flinty, and brutal; you must take no prisoners. A book does not just drop from the sky, perfectly formed. It comes as a great amorphous mass, and must be sculpted into shape. Now I must put my serious hat on, and move on down the long road, chisel in hand.

Into the wild

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Today, I rode out into the glen.

I really love being able to write that sentence. I think how soaringly lucky I am to be able to write that sentence.

First of all, I am damn lucky to have a glen on my back doorstep. That is not something everyone has. Although, interestingly, most people, even quite old friends, think I am a little bit nuts to live so far north, almost six hundred miles from dirty old London town. I adore London; I lived there for almost twenty years. I love the National Portrait Gallery and Bar Italia and driving through Hyde Park early in the morning before anyone is up except for the cavalry officers, schooling their horses. But London does not have glens.


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