Snow Days: When Editing is actually Writing…

So. For the second day running, delightfully, I have a day off. I am a teacher so I am experiencing the joy that is the ‘Snow Day’. I know there will be many who are perhaps jealous and feel that us teachers get an easy ride, what with all those long holidays and finishing at three. I will always counter any of those arguments with the fact most teachers work damn hard, as hard as any one else I would say. I would also counter it with this; why can’t everyone have long holidays and snow days? There is no real reason apart from those at the top who are convinced in the efficacy of the Protestant work ethic, where one is somehow only a virtuous person if you work your socks off. For me, this is a false premise. You only get one life so why should the majority of it be spent in drudgery; where you sell your time to someone else richer than you? Those at the top do not work harder than those at the bottom.
I therefore relish the snow day, as I am sure that anyone would. Apart from savouring that the sky is the deepest blue that you will ever see and the treetops the most magical winter white I can spend a few hours doing something I love. And that, right now, is editing my latest work in progress which is the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo entitled ‘An End of Poppies’.
At the end of November I had hit the magical number of fifty thousand words and it had a full plot with an ending. Now the problem is, as any writer who has done NaNoWriMo will know, fifty thousand words does not a novel make. Most novels are at least twice this length. So I busy myself adding to it, with a vague target of one hundred thousand words. Doubling it if you will.
Now most ‘editors’ advise that you should ‘cut, cut, cut,’ and I am certainly cutting some passages, though I have to say they are small and rare. It sounds odd but there is a certain economy to writing fifty thousand words in thirty days and I seem to be quite good at being concise, making my plot points and not ‘over-writing’ things as it were.
Now though I find myself clarifying descriptions and adding detail, tone and colour. In fact you could argue that I am not ‘editing’ at all, although I do remove typos and change grammar and such. Neither am I ‘re-writing’ because the majority of what I have written I am happy with and find pleasing to read as I go through it. I suppose my version of editing is almost the opposite of what many do and what many would advise. I guess I am adding and polishing.
So, at the end of the day, on this beautiful snow day, I find that I am not editing at all. I am simply writing. How delightful…

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From my window, look snow has come…
© 2012 Simon Poore

Am I a Novelist?

So…now I have completed the first draft of my third novel. Hmmm…yes…indeed.
I did this through ‘NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month) where you are challenged to write fifty thousand words in one month (November). For the second year running I am a winner and have miraculously completed that many words and my novel has a start, a middle and an end (round of applause please!).
If you had asked me whether I was capable of such a thing a year and a half ago I probably would have laughed at you in the way that we often laugh off things that might challenge us. The kind of laughter born of disbelief and fear.
Of course there is still lots of work to do with editing my novel and rewriting. I now have two novels that require such extended work. Only the novel that I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2011 is in any kind of finished state.
Despite the work ahead it should still be a gratifying feeling to accomplish such a creative feat, and I do feel proud of myself. In a way…
But then, being the miserable bugger that I can sometimes be, I wonder about what it all means. And, yet again, I find myself wondering why I am doing it? The writing I mean…
The first thing, and this is a hard thing to admit, is that it is a bit self-indulgent. If writers (or artists of any kind) are honest, they are often creating to entertain others, and thereby seeking to gain approval from others. We all want to be adored after all? Don’t we?
Although, I have to admit that there is a certain terror when someone I know actually reads something I have written. This is always a difficult thing. If a friend or family member reads your work then aren’t they obliged to tell you they like it, even if they don’t? So you can’t always trust what they say…
Praise from strangers is better. It is a bit like when I play gigs. Singing to strangers is always easier and less precious than singing to friends.
I guess I am just rambling now. My real question is this. Do I dare now call myself a ‘novelist’ simply because I have written some novels? Am I a novelist if no one has ever read my work?
Franz Kafka never had a novel published in his life. He only ever published short stories in magazines (like ‘Metamorphosis’). He later instructed his friend Max Brod to burn all his manuscripts before he died. We have Brod to thank because he ignored Kafka’s request and published works like ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Castle’ posthumously anyway.
Would we call Kafka a novelist if Brod hadn’t published his work and burnt it instead? If we knew he had written novels but no one had ever read them?
I am not sure what I think about this. I suppose if you write a novel (however good or bad?) that makes you a novelist…even if you aren’t published or make a living from it…
Perhaps I will challenge myself over the Christmas period. Often when we meet new people, perhaps at parties, they ask us “What are you?” to which I sometimes reply “I am a human being, what are you?” Or they ask “What do you do?” to which I sometimes reply “I like to lie on the sofa, what do you do?”
Flippant and silly I know, but maybe, just maybe, this Christmas I will be brave and when somebody asks me one of those questions I will answer “I am a novelist…”
Do you think I will dare?
What do you think?

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Franz Kafka…very Kafkaesque don’t you know…

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Self-portrait of the artist as a ‘Novelist’…
© 2012 Simon Poore