The Writer’s Tragedy

maskThere are aspects of the writer’s craft which are joyous. And then there is editing.

I have just finished re-reading my work in progress, Humphrey and Jack, which currently stands at 85,000 words. There were two reasons for this interim edit. One was to decide whether I want a chronological time scheme for the earlier chapters or whether I want to go for a more complex alternation of time frames. I am still not decided and think I’m going to need the advice of independent readers. I probably can’t decide because I’m too close to the text.

The second reason is to keep a record of the clues I’ve carefully hidden in the text which will become significant in the ending. I want the reader to think ‘Ah, so that’s why!’ Or ‘Yes, of course, now I see!’ However, what for me was a painstaking trawl should be a different experience for the reader. Everything should fall effortlessly into place. Ars est celare artem as that clever poet Horace said. The art is to hide the art.

The writer’s tragedy is that he can never come to his work afresh. He knows what is going to happen. He spots every clue. He is not surprised. The funny bits are like a joke that someone has explained to you and therefore killed.

When you’ve finished there’s the line edit and the copy edit and the editor’s advice to be attended to by which time your critical judgement is exhausted and you are shot through with existential doubt.

Why do we do it? Well nothing beats the pleasure of holding the finished physical thing in your hands.

But that’s another story.

Share This Page:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.