Wednesday, 18 August 2010


In more ways than one.

I've just finished re-writing Chapter One (and a tiny bit of Chapter Two) from scratch. Which wasn't that painful, I must admit. I'm pretty happy with the new version. However, what IS painful is my neck. And my shoulder. And my back, generally.

This is because when I re-write I like to write on paper, but because my eyes are defective (seriously, I can't even hold a UK driving licence) I have to sort of crane over the page, leaning one elbow on the table, or wherever I'm working, to support my chin. And the inevitable result of this? PAAAAAAIN.

It took me a long time to realise that this method of writing was what caused my habitual back pain. I tried all kinds of cures, like taking glucosomine (is that how you spell it? Ah, whatever, my neck hurts), changing to an orthopedic mattress and giving up massive shoulder bags (how are you supposed to carry three books, a notepad, a diary and an appropriate number of pens in a tiny bag, dammit?) before I finally figured out that I was only crippled with the pain and forced to shuffle along like the Hunchback of Notre Damme after long writing sessions.

It was a blow, let me tell you. Writing on paper with a pencil has always been my favourite way, especially when drafting. I can produce words much faster that way, and I feel freer and happier about my work. When I was getting to the end of the first draft of Shadows, I was putting out 8,000 words per writing day in handwritten notes. I've never managed more than a couple of thousand per day when I was typing. But I couldn't live all hunched over and 'ow, ow, ow'ing every time I needed to reach for a pan on a high shelf, and needing to get people to haul me out of chairs because my back seized up if I sat down for more than ten minutes.

So with FrostFire, I switched to using a laptop for drafting, only scribbling occasional notes in my notebook, and making sure I did so in back-friendly position, even if it did mean writing much larger than I normally would. And sure enough, my words per day rate halfed. But since I write full-time now and I can work every day instead of just Wednesdays and Sundays, I found that I was quite happy to produce around 10-12,000 words per week. That adds up to quite a lot of words fairly quickly anyway. And I could, you know, sit in a chair or have a bath without sobbing in agony. Which was a plus.

When I came to revise, of course I needed to print out my manuscript to make my alterations in red pen. Pretty much every author you've ever heard of has to do this; it's like a strange need. Even my terribly professional editor has to work this way when she's line editing. I struggled and strove to keep my back happy as I marked up the pages and did fairly well, so long as I made myself keep shifting position and stretching as I went. You can read and stretch at the same time.

However, what you can't do is write and stretch/move at the same time. Not when you're scribbling furiously to get the ideas pinned down on that page before they slither away. And I *have* to use a pencil and paper when I'm re-writing. Don't ask me why this is. I just DO. It's the only way to break free of the lines you've already written; symbolically throw the printed pages in the bin and then start anew on college lined paper with a mechanical pencil. It's the way I'm made.

Apparently the other way I'm made is to suffer.

Look how much I love you, guys. I'm willing to live with so much pain, all for you. To write this book for you and make it awesome. I'm like some kind of Mother Theresa, only slightly less saintly and with better hair. I'm stunned by my own magnanimity here.



I'm going to get a hot water bottle.


Alex Mullarky said...

Even I printed out my manuscript and went over it with a red pen, and I am nowhere near being a professional writer. :D

Anonymous said...

So, you're telling me that you'll stop murdering pages with red ink but start writing some chapters while I sit here and wait???
Wait for Shadows of the Moon to release and for Frost Fire to actually be written???
If you keep to 8,000 words a day you'll finish it in only just a few days...
...Which will cause it to turn out rubbish!
Take your time (and you don't hear that often from your friend downstairs!).

BTW. Remind me again why I was doing your maths?

Zoë Marriott said...

Alex: there you are, you see. It's a NEED. No one who writes can resist the lure of The Red Pen.

Meghaz: I should mention that when I write 8,000 in a day, it then takes me three days to type it up, changing and revising all the time as I go. I'm not quite as slapdash as I sound! But I only wrote 3204 today anyway. These are the new and improved opening chapters for FrostFire, so I already know just what I need to do, which makes it go more quickly.

batgirl said...

I revise onscreen, including line editing. The only time I've printed out Willow Knot was to mail hardcopy to Caitlin.
Obviously I am a freak.

Zoë Marriott said...

Chances are that's a more efficient way of editing - if you can do it. I think most of us are told about the printing and red pen stuff early and it just gets to be a habit, so we never really train ourselves to edit on screen. But you revise which such determination that I'm sure you do a ten times better job than me anyway.

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