I’m writing a book at the moment. That’s not all that unusual for me, I do that sort of thing.
This will be the seventh novel I’ll have written (we won’t talk about the first three that didn’t get published), but somehow every time I sit down to do this I realise I’ve forgotten how.
The thing is, writing a book takes a while. Around five or six months, for me. By the time it’s “finished”, by which I mean sent off to my editor, Phil Jordan, I can barely remember starting it.
I can remember revising it all too well – by the time Phil sees one of my books I’ll have read it probably eight or nine times back to back, tweaking and changing things and making it the best I can on my own. I wouldn’t read the best book in the world eight or nine times back to back for pleasure, trust me, but the work needs to be done.
If I was a classical sculptor, this would be the bit where I chiselled the statue out of the block of marble.
Then Phil comes back and tells me everything that’s still wrong with the book, and that’s great. That’s what editors are for, and dear gods I wouldn’t be without him. So I follow Phil’s advice (most of it, usually), and I revise the book some more, change the things that need changing and add the bits that need adding. Then it goes back off again to Phil to approve then on to Paul the copyeditor for him to weep over my abuse of commas and remind me of the things I’d forgotten happened in the last book, and all the other subtle magic he does.
Again, if I was a sculptor this would be the sanding and polishing and smoothing off of the rough edges of the statue.
I like doing all that stuff. That’s the part where you hammer a statue out of your block of marble and make it the best statue you possibly can, then you refine it and smooth it and polish it, and eventually it’s done and people can come and see it and hopefully enjoy it.
But writing the first draft? That’s the bit where you have to drag the sodding block of marble into the studio in the first place.