Please, put it away – it’s so very, very, very, very ….

… fluffy.

Every writer has their favourite tip. Mine has always been:

“When you have perfected your article/manuscript, put it away for at least a few weeks, better still several months while you write something else. Then read it again and see if you still think it’s perfect. The chances are that you’ll notice places where your writing can be improved.”

It’s something I’ve always done, and yet ………

When I read any of my own books, invariably there are parts where I think “Damn, that’s clumsy/long-winded/clichéd,” or squirm at a gauche double-entendre.

But this is the first time I’ve been really shocked by my own writing.

I was rather complacent with A Perfect Circle. I had a contract in the bag, an enormous amount of material, and all the time in the world. There was no sense of urgency. Until suddenly the delivery deadline came knocking on the door and I wasn’t ready. So it was written hastily, and not put away for long enough.

The content is good and the book sold well in paperback and hardback large print. But I remember reading through it once it had been published and feeling that I could have done a much better job. Too late – it was already out there on the shelves.

The rights have now reverted from Transworld, and Blackbird Digital Books will re-publish it this year as a digital book and paperback. The original digital file was no longer available, which meant producing a new one. I did so by scanning the paperback and using optical character recognition software to produce a text file.

FreeOCR is free, easy to useand very good – I’d say about 95% accurate – and saved me weeks of typing. But it still left the task of correcting the 5% of errors.

As I began reading through the manuscript I found crates of very, piles of rather, heaps of slightly, mounds of abouts, bucketfuls of superfluous adverbs and adjectives, conjunctions in their thousands and a sprinkling of cliches. All of which I would have noticed and removed if I had put it away for long enough and re-read later.

Happily the book has another chance, and this time it will make an even better read. And I’ve learned my own lesson. 🙂


11 thoughts on “Please, put it away – it’s so very, very, very, very ….

  1. I read somewhere that if you don’t have time to put it away one of the tricks for making you look at a manuscript with fresh eyes is to put it in a really ugly and unfamiliar script and then read it. Things really do look different when they aren’t in Times New Roman.

  2. It is a good tip, that. I remember coming back to my book months and months (if not a couple of years) later and wondering if it was really me who’d written it!

      • Jon, I can’t believe that. What about the Night of the Radish? And your blog posts are always jolly good reads. In fact, you seem to be in better form than ever at the moment. 🙂 Dig that manuscript out!

    • Sarah, you’re so right. The longer we don’t see it, the quicker we can pick out the faults. Re-reading A Perfect Circle, I can hardly believe I wrote it. But it’s brought back a lot of wonderful memories, despite the writing. 🙂

  3. I haven’t read the book (but will now…!) but I am sure it is not quite as ‘fluffy’ as you fear. We are our own worst critical voices…
    Mind you, you are 100% correct about the need to “put it away” – and then taking the shears to it!

  4. I’ve put away the stuff that I’ve done…but am fed up waiting to sell the house to have nothing in France that can be attacked so i’ll get it out and revise it.
    And then i’ll do as you suggest and put it away again to see if there are any ragged edges.

    • Good luck, Fly. I know you have at least one wonderful book waiting to delight all your followers, and probably more. I can’t wait for them – my Kindle is drumming its little fingers madly. Please don’t keep us in suspense too long. 🙂

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