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.”