Bowing to good advice

Keep it simple
Keeping it simple

When you’ve wanted to write for a long time and you finally get started, something wonderful happens. If you’re lucky it can be like striking oil. You hit the seam and the ideas come gushing out – characters, storylines, scenes and themes flow onto the page in great abundance.

But, like an oil gusher, things can get very messy very quickly.

And you’re so happy about the oil, you hardly notice.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been offered some very good advice from various quarters – and it hasn’t been easy. In particular, I was talking to a good friend who knows her stuff when it comes to writing. She listened to me describe the knots I’ve been tangled up in on the second draft.

I’m passing on her advice, in case it applies to any other first-timers who might find it helpful. With all that’s going on in my novel, I had been finding it difficult to make the most important themes and storylines rise above all the rest. The deadline to enter the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair is approaching fast and in my heart I knew something was not right in my manuscript.

My friend hit the nail on the head when she pointed out I had too many themes. Write down all the themes, she said, and decide which ones are central to what the book is about. Many of the others can be taken out and saved for another time, another place.

Of course I knew she was right but I was scared of the implications of this advice. It took me several attempts to even begin the process of cutting and I started to waver. What if it just couldn’t be done and the story wouldn’t work anymore? What if it was too late to change?

But I’m happy to report that I did find the courage and the insight to make the big changes. And things are looking a lot better now. Now for the next challenge – the synopsis!