It’s been over a month since I completed the first draft of my third novel, ‘The Lives of Ghosts’.
For me, having some space between completing a draft and beginning to read and edit is essential. My overall perspective on my stories is shaky at the best of times, but during those final intense novel weeks, the trees have so completely overgrown the woods that it’s almost like writing in the dark.
But now, after spending some time working, playing, reading, writing a new short story, but mostly simply attempting to catch up with all the things and people I’m destined to never completely catch up with, while at the same time trying not to think about my novel at all - I’ve printed it out at long last. (293 pages - the printer was a bit grumpy about it, but finally gave in). And this morning - I opened it.
It was a shock. To say the least.
What is this story? Who told this story?
Was I honestly such a different person when I wrote this - or has some mysterious, masked author crept in and secretly rewritten my novel while my back was turned? Perhaps I was more thoroughly possessed by my Ghosts than I imagined . . .
In a way, this sense of surprise is ideal, since in order to go through the manuscript as subjectively as possible, I need to try to see it from the perspective of a reader (a crotchety, pernickety, generally quite difficult reader frequently works best), but nonetheless the gap between the novel I believed I had created and the actual story on the page before me was startling. After all, these characters have been living in my head for almost a year - yet somehow, they’ve managed to sneak off and make their own way. Even their scenery is subtly different . . .
However, after that initial jolt, when I actually allowed myself to simply read (and only read – no rewriting or corrections are allowed, not just yet!), I found my irritation giving way here and there to a grudging pleasure and then, eventually, to a dawning relief.
Well, hello there story, I thought. Nice to make your acquaintance.
I’m looking forward to finding out what you’re about to tell me next . . .