Posted by: Alastair Rosie | April 18, 2012

The Art of Redrafting

WHEN DO I REDRAFT?

It’s been a strange week for me, one where I finally abandoned yet another redraft of my vampire novel and went back to draft three with the intention of just finishing the book no matter how badly written it is. A strange way to feel about a work but lately I’ve gotten tired of reworking old scenes only to dump or rework them a third or fourth time. I’ve taken a page out of a book I read a while back where the writer was advised to just write until you’re finished, print the book and put it aside for a month or two and write something else. By the time you come back to it you’ve been hopefully working on other stuff, reading new books and your outlook will have changed. It might be that a character you thought was just a minor bit player could have a much larger role and maybe your heroine needs some flaws to balance out her loveable nature.

It’s sound advice and the reason I feel many of us constantly redraft half finished novels is an inbuilt sense of low self esteem. I don’t know about you but I certainly write because I’ve been having an ongoing quarrel with reality all my life. I know good doesn’t always triumph over evil and even when it does, the good isn’t always pure and white but jaded, a dirty yellowish cream perhaps. And so we set out to create the world as we would like it to be. Whether it’s a hero who foils a terrorist plot to blow up a plane or a sci fi adventure set in a remote system, an epic fantasy with swords, sorcery and larger than life figures, or the lonely woman who finds love in the most unlikely places. We create these worlds and characters and move them about the world, throwing up obstacles in their paths to see how or if they overcome them.

The danger however is in getting so far and then going back and redrafting again. Far better I believe to keep pushing on. My end result will be a massive tome, probably too large to publish but once it’s printed and in my hands all that extra dross where I’ve gone off on a tangent can be circled, condensed down to a single sentence or maybe half a page and the original text isn’t wasted. It serves as background material something to refer back to when you write the next draft and sadly with writing there are lots of drafts. So here we go again. I’ve stitched my story together again and I’m going to try this once more by the numbers. I’ll let you know how it all turns out in a week or two.

On another note I’ve been reading The Vampire Lestat for the first time. I finished Interview With a Vampire a couple of weeks ago. While my vampires are a little more lively and probably more human than Lestat or Louis I’m still enjoying her style of writing. To my memory Anne Rice was the first to successfully break the mould of the vampire monster as pioneered by Stoker and create vampires whom we could feel for, granted they were still hunters, killers and monstrous but you feel genuine pity for them and empathy. The archetype she has drawn on for Louis, Lestat and Gabrielle is the unrealised part of our nature, that wants to roam free, create music, art or indulge ourselves. We hold back from giving rein to our baser selves for fear of what people might think but in her vampire books Rice has definitely evoked the ethos of the alter ego to create her vampires. It’s something I’ve been playing with in my vampire book, setting vampires up as our unrealised or unrecognised alter egos, the hero who comes to the rescue at the critical point, the sympathetic ear, the comforting touch. In that way they’re so not like vampires but I’ve felt for some time that the vampire books out there fall into one of two categories. The blood sucking monster or the romantic hero who’s probably very dangerous. Everything else is a variation on those two themes.

With that in mind here’s my writing prompt for the week.

Take a familiar character like a vampire and reverse the stereotype. Make them so repulsed by the sight of blood they faint every time they have to feed. Or take a cop who’s terrified of people, not just crooks but everyone. You can use any character type but take the usual stereotype and either reverse it completely or distort it so much that it’s almost unrecognisable. A good example of this kind of role reversal was Analyze This with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal.

Have a great weekend!
Alastair Rosie

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