Back at the binge

I know that binge writing isn’t considered professional. I still find it one of the most useful ways to get a huge chunk of work done on a single piece, and I’m glad that my writers’ group has four of them every year.

We’re in the middle of the June binge. My plan this time was to get 30,000 words done on the rewrite of The Swan Harp. In retrospect, that was overambitious, perhaps even unrealistic. Part of the problem with this goal is that there are so many bits I have to write, and then have to meld together into a single, smooth story. I’m not used to writing pieces and sticking them together; my usual process is one I call “bulling through”. In the immortal words of the King of Hearts, “Start at the beginning, go on to the end, and then stop.”

I need to put the pieces I’ve written together, even if they’re stitched in with huge, basting stitches in some weird colour of thread and stick out like crazy. I need to see how they fit into the fabric of the story, and where I’m going to have to trim, hem, embroider and press to make it all work. I’ve done some of that already – the original story is about 90,000 words, and I’ve assembled approximately 40,000 so far. I’m hoping to put the rest together by the end of the day. Then I can start smoothing and seeing where I have to add scenes and rewrite others.

It’s been a learning experience, doing this rewrite. I think I’ve found it particularly difficult because I had to remove about a quarter of the work and pull out all the little threads of that single passage that had been stitched through other parts of the story. Now, piecing in other bits, I have to make them fit in the same way. It’s going to take some doing. But after putting together the passages I’ve rewritten, or written from scratch, with most of the second draft, I’m beginning to see the shape the story will take.

I know I don’t have a firm deadline on this, and I know that the important thing is to make it as perfect as I can. At the same time, I bear in mind two other things. Even after the “as perfect as I can” draft, the agent I spoke to talked about how, if she signed me, we could then go “really deeply” into the manuscript. Kinda makes it sound as though, no matter how perfect I make it, it’ll always need something more. Which leads me to the second thing I bear in mind; no work of art is ever truly completed, only abandoned. So I want to get this to “as perfect as I can” abandonment by the end of August. I want to show the agent that I’m capable of dedicated work on a manuscript without taking years to finish.

Besides, I have other stories to write. I need to get on with them, too.

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