I am just about to start the third edit of my book, that is- just about to start, after first finishing this post, and then getting some lunch and perhaps heading down to town to pick up some groceries and run some errands.
My last post was about procrastination- I am not going to procrastinate about the procrastinating any more than is possible…
Anyway- I am poised at the beginning of the next stage in my books development. I have 90,000 words, and I want to reduce that to about 55,000- that is the challenge, and the next stage in the process.
My beta readers have confirmed that a) it is good, b) there is a lot of repetition which needs to be addressed, c) there are sections which are definitely too long, and d) it needs more personal anecdotes.
I am breathing a massive sigh of relief right now, because I was already aware of all these issues. My greatest fear was that the book sounded like an essay written on “hope and recovery” written by a year eleven student; that the standard of writing just wasn’t up at a publishable level.
My beta readers have informed me that this isn’t the case.
They have said that it reads well and sounds like “a real book,”(that was my distinction and not theres.) I really struggle to critique my own writing objectively, which I know is a common problem.
I struggle to read it through clear eyes, or eyes which aren’t affected by whatever mood I’m in. If I’m feeling positive and self-confident, I can acknowledge that my writing is ok; if I’m not, it’s acceptable at best.
I was “good” at writing when I was 16- I won a couple of poetry awards, and received one of the top five marks in the country for GCSE Enlish language and literature, which was pretty awesome.
However since then I have had long periods of inactivity, and I guess lost that natural confidence. I know that the only way to improve my craft is to keep writing, and write as much as I possibly can in as many different forms and styles as I possibly can. Hence this blog.
My beta readers have been great, and their positive comments have meant a lot to me and greatly boosted my self-confidence. I have a lot of faith in my book, I think that it is something that would be massively beneficial to people who are still suffering from horrible mental illness symptoms.
The fact that I have actually been through it myself means that I’m not just some distant academic, writing vaguely about theoretical concepts and imagined ideas. I am writing, from experience, about concrete practises which have been vital to my ability to move past the illness, and past the symptoms. I hope that this will comfort readers- if I can get through it then so can they.
Anyway, enough of the shameless self-promotion.
At this stage, one of the main areas of contention that I am grappling with, is the “stay true to yourself” vs “write something which is accessible” argument. Two people, who have read my book, have told me not to change a word; they have said that it is my story, and it’s deep, thought provoking and inspiring.
They have told me to leave it exactly as it is. I have jokingly reminded them that editor and publishers probably wouldn’t go along with that line of thinking, and that if I want it to actually get it out to the people I want it to get to, I may have to prune it a little.
One of my friends was so emphatic- she hadn’t realised all that I’d gone through with the illness, and was said that reading it was like glancing into my soul. This obviously means so much, and I really do appreciate the sentiment.
The book is mine, it is my story; and therefore I should keep it as true to myself as I can. I shouldn’t cut bits out just because I feel that they’re too long or too rambling- I should embrace the fact that this is the way the story has come out.
However, on the flip side to that; the most important outcome, is that this book actually gets published, and gets out to the people who I want to read it. Also that I get my message out there: that I actually manage to insert my ideas and my version of events into the world.
Therefore working it into a version which is going to wow the publishers, and satisfy the editors it definitely important; more than that even, it is crucial. I don’t like the fact that a persons creativity, and ultimately their voice, is stifled for commercial and saleable reasons. This is a crap consequence of the world we live in- if something is not in a form which will make money, it is not deemed to be relevant.
Anyway, that is another issue and another subject.
For now, I accept that I need to rework the bare bones which I have got now, into a new body of a book which is more accessible. It is about writing something which I think a person who is suffering would be able to read; that is the more important justification for cutting down the length of the book than trying to please the publishers.
Moreover, I need to identify where I am writing simply because I am enjoying exploring a subject, and ultimately watching the words appear on the screen in front of me. As much as I accept that it is my own book, and my own space to explore what I want; it’s purpose is to help other people, not function as my own personal thesis on mental health issues.
I’ve got to be strict with myself, and work out which parts are benefiting me more than the target reader. If I have written an amazing chapter in the sense that it’s thought provoking and elaborate, but it doesn’t offer the reader any good advice or beneficial ideas, then it probably needs to be cut.
This is going to be a good starting point for me to work out where the 90,000 words can be trimmed, and where I am writing words which aren’t really suitable or relevant.
I do, however, want to use it to get across a few specific ideas or messages. I’ll explore said messages in another post; but trying to get those across is going to be another major preoccupation of mine over the next few months. I really want someone to get to the end of my book and feel more confident, feel comforted and feel reassured.
So I have a lot to think about, and a lot to consider, as I start the third edit. I am positive, and reassured by what my beta readers have conveyed to me. I have taken a six week break whilst they have been reading, but now that is over. So I just need to stop blogging, tweeting and writing random poetry, and rediscover my focus again!