Down our way, every day is whisky day. What would be the point of being a writer otherwise? But today is a special day, and so I have cracked open one of the special bottles:
It was a 20 year old when my grandfather bought it, and since he died in 1979, it’s safe to say it was distilled over 50 years ago. Admittedly, they say whisky doesn’t really get better in the bottle, and since these old school bottles have screw-caps not corks it’s probably got worse. But the fact is that, unlike computers, when it comes to whisky oldest is supposedly bestest, so I don’t care if it tastes like woody vomit I shall drink it with the smugness of the man that knows he is destroying something rare. And anyway regardless of how it tastes I just really admire the way it looks like something some toe-rag might have tried to cosh John Thaw over the head with in some dodgy soho club in an episode of The Sweeney.
But wherefore the celebration, you ask? Ah, rejoice, my children. Well, not in fact my actual children, for they are too young to care a toss about my writing. But you, my metaphorical children, can rejoice, for I have finished the first draft of The Heroes. Of course, when I say first draft, it’s not quite at that stage. And when I say finished, you know, a book is never really finished. But the fact is there is a book now which runs all the way from a first sentence to a last one, and with some 210,000 words of violence, swearing, warfare, and investigations of the nature of heroism in between. There are some issues between those two sentences, I will admit. And those two sentences themselves could also do with a little work, thinking about it, but nothing that several more months of graft won’t fix. In fact now, in many ways, the real work begins…
Of the six characters, and therefore the six central ingeniously interweaving stories (ahem), two work pretty well already, two need a good beating with a claw hammer, and two may need some heavier equipment brought to bear. The writing certainly needs a good bit of sharpening up, plus an injection of personality (I tend to start with a relatively neutral voice then work in more of the relevant character later). The weather and the countryside need some more zing, there needs to be more colour to the supporting cast which is large and in need of differentiation, and overall there needs to be some heavy cutting, mostly in the detail, but also in the arena of thoughts and feelings and a few characters being removed for the sake of focus and simplicity. I want this book to come in well under 200,000 words, so more Blade Itself length than Last Argument of Kings length.
So this week I’ll mostly be doing a basic revision of the final part, making sure it works on a chapter by chapter basis and that there’s nothing in it that’s really shit (depending on who you ask), plus thinking about how some of the earlier sections might have to change (especially in the first part, which is a bit of a speculative mess if I’m honest) to suit the way things have ended up. That’ll go off to my editor and we’ll have a meeting to discuss how the whole thing looks, any areas of it that seem particularly ineffective or unconvincing to her expert eye now that the endings are before us. Then I suspect I’ve got a heavy month in may doing the serious plot stuff, followed by a heavy month in june attending more to the detail of the writing, probably on a character by character basis. And the work won’t end there either. There’ll still be a detailed edit, a copy edit, and a proof-read to attend to, as well of course as giving my input on the artwork as it begins to appear. Ah, the work of the writer is truly never done. In the words of one of my personal filmic heroes, Captain Redlegs Tirrell from The Outlaw Josey Wales: “Doing right ain’t got no end.”