Stephen King explains in On Writing that his approach to second drafts and editing involves reducing the word count of a novel by a good ten per cent. Having read my fair share of Mr Kings novels, one hates to think how long they were to start with, but I can see his point. There is a natural desire as a writer to be wordy. At least I find that to be the case for me. (regular readers of this blog are shocked by this revelation I am sure…) So If I do not watch myself, I have a tendency to ramble in early drafts.
With previous novels, that tendency to ramble has perhaps been less checked that it should have been in final edits. Though I do make a conscious effort to avoid rambling too much, and no one has yet accused my novels of being too verbose, so I’ve hopefully got away with it. People generally like them for a start…
But with ‘A Spider In The Eye’ I have a different problem. Unlike my previous novels, this one is narrated by the main character. It is in effect first person, but at the same time because of where and when he is telling his story it has a degree of the memoir about it. All of which is fine, it is a stylistic choice I made after I originally wrote the first few chapters as a third person narrative. While it worked in the third person, the first person just suits the story I am telling more. Hannibal’s own insights into events are what makes the story work for me as a writer.
But therein lays a problem. For a while I tend to ramble a little if left unchecked, Hannibal is far more inclined to ramble than I am, and finding that sweet spot between what is Hannibal’s voice and what is my own rambling is somewhat challenging. Not that I am complaining, the challenge of bringing a fictional character own voice to life was the reason I decided on writing this particular novel this way. If it were easy, well it would be no fun at all…
There is a touch of the masochist in every writer. If we did not secretly enjoy the struggle, I suspect none of us would do it. Though that could be just me.
So here I am, editing away my rambling, while not editing away Hannibal’s rambling, and trying to cut away the chaff… Which begs the question, as I am consciously trying to cut more than I add, of how a mere 76 pages into a 416-page document, the word count has grown by another 1000 words.
Still, I know that the 75 pages I have done are far more polished and cleaner than they were when I started this edit, So I guess, as Hannibal would say “small victories and all that…”