Monday, 16 August 2010

Adventures in Rewiring

Take the thick wire and follow it through walls, under floorboards, round the various sockets and light-fittings. Then, once you know its length and path, yank it out and replace it with a thicker, dual-core wire which will work better and not send the house up in smoke. Done that? Good. Now do it with the other 96 wires, make sure none of them take a wrong turn or will short-circuit the others, and you're done.

No, I've not changed jobs and ditched writing altogether in favour of a life as an electrician, but it seemed like an apt analogy for the job I am currently undertaking. After a hiatus of 18 months, I am returning to my novel, Endless Days, with its twisty-turny fragmented storyline (and a disintegrating narrative voice, don't forget that - like pulling the wires through crumbly dry-rot), and attempting to rewrite, edit and generally sort the damn thing out.

I started the book way back in the beginning of 2007. I ground to halt around May of that year, with just 11,000 words done. Following some personal interruptions, I picked it up again in early 2008 and finally finished the 100,000 words in January 2009. Since then more personal interruptions have stopped me returning to it - or wanting to - but now I've been drawn back to it.

I did wonder, last year, if I would ever return to it. Maybe it was dead and maybe it was better to leave it like that. But a couple of months ago, on a long car journey, I suddenly discovered that I was thinking about it and wondering if that section from chapter 30 might not make a better opening. And should my epilogue be my prologue? And should I change the narrative voice? If so, how? And on, and on... And so I find myself with the block of paper in my hand, setting out to trace all the conduits and see if I can't get the lights on again.

Rewriting is always a strange thing, but doing it with something which has lain fallow for so long is very strange, as it seems familiar but it no longer feels like your words. In some ways that is good, as you can be more objective and so hack and trim without a care. In other ways it's strange, as you discover things you had forgotten and start to feel a little abstracted from it, like you are floating above the work and looking down at it with detached interest but none of the emotional connection which made you write it in the first place.

All that notwithstanding, I am currently in the reading phase, and despite the problems with those first 11,000 words, which seem to belong to a different book, I am enjoying it. The distance means I can read it like any old book and enjoy it for what it was. At the moment, I am not trying to work out how to solve the problems, I am letting the little guy who lives in the back of my brain work on those, as he does on so much else. Instead I am just taking it in, soaking in it, letting it diffuse through my pores and fill me up again. Then it will be out with the pliers, the wire-trimmers and we'll start restringing those cables.

I will update on the process as I go along, and let you know every time I electrocute myself or black out the whole block. Hopefully, by the end, the house will still be standing and the lights will be blazing. Here's hoping.

PS. Ever noticed how easy it is to write the word 'rewiring' when you mean 'rewriting'...?