Saturday, 22 April 2017

On tweaking the WIP

I am an inveterate tweaker. I'm currently halfway through Time Rats Book 3. Before starting to write, I reread what I wrote the day before and improve it, adding bits, and altering words and their order. I believe in Holly Lisle's advice that you should never read your work without a pen in your hand. I also at some stage read the whole thing aloud, and put it through editing software (mainly to catch word echoes). By the time my books are published, I've had all my second thoughts, and third, fourth and fifth ones too.

I think writers who press on to the end of their first draft before editing in one go miss out - though they undoubtedly get more books written.

According to Ben Jonson, Shakespeare was not a tweaker:

I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, “Would he had blotted a thousand,” which they thought a malevolent speech. ... His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him: Cæsar, thou dost me wrong. He replied: Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause; and such like, which were ridiculous.

I think any writer will recognize what we have here; a less successful author carping at a more successful author, complicated by their being friends. I'm also not totally convinced of the truth of his assertion - but alas, we will never know now how Shakespeare wrote. While Googling this, I came across an irresistible anecdote from John Manningham's diary about Shakespeare that I'd forgotten. Here it is - I've modernised the spelling:

Upon a time when Burbidge played Richard III, there was a citizen grown so far in liking with him, that before she went from the play she appointed him to come that night unto her by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare overhearing their conclusion went before, was entertained and at his game ere Burbidge came. Then message being brought that Richard the Third was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third. Shakespeare’s name William.”


  1. Loved the anecdote!

    Lexi, I think that if you added a little more sizzle to your stories the writing universe ... or more precisely the romantic slice of it ... could be your oyster.

    I say keep up the tweaking but also think a little more on William the conqueror :)

  2. Oh dear, Q, I'm sure you are right - but I'll never manage the sort of thing you mean. Possibly a little more intensity...

    I've been reading out of my comfort zone with some Kindle Scout novels I nominated and was given for free. I admit I've stopped reading two; one at a graphic torture scene and the other when it got steamy. It was like reading a blow-by-blow description of eating a meal, hardly compelling.

  3. I think the romance genre encompasses authors who can scale the heights of the beautiful and sublime and also many who descend to the depths of ridiculous eroticism. (I'm sure I felt Emanuel Kant turn in his grave then!)

    When a postgrad at Imperial I attended lectures on symmetry in particle physics by Abdus Salam. I didn't understand everything without further study, but gained inspiration just from listening to a master practitioner.

    To see what can be achieved with a romantic thread I would recommend reading one of the masters. For humour and sizzle and also for the art of constructing a series, I doubt you could do better than Julia Quinn with her Bridgerton series. Listening to Rosalyn Landor reading these books also demonstrates the added value that a really good narrator can achieve.

    Incidentally, I believe that the phrase 'The World is your Oyster' can also be traced back to the bard (Merry Wives of Windsor)

    Anyway Lexi, sizzle or no sizzle, you write very good absorbing yarns ... very much looking forward to Time Rats 3 :)

    1. I took a quick look at Bridgerton 1, but I'm not sure Regency Romance is for me. I get all picky about the dialogue and the mores and it sends me back to Jane Austen (no bad thing).

      One would think series would be easier to write, as the writer has established the characters and settings in book one, but I don't find it so. I am impressed by writers like Julia Quinn who seem to do it effortlessly.

  4. I hate to bring the tone down, but, in the version I read, the message had it that William the Conqueror came before Richard the Third. (So sorry. I hang my head...)

    1. I wonder which is authentic? I suspect your version has been updated/sharpened up...unless mine was bowdlerized, of course.