It’s a while since I posted and that is because at last, at long, long last we moved into our new home. Our belongings, which we’d placed into store several months ago, arrived in a huge truck and were unloaded to fill every room of the house with an explosion of boxes. Including the garage. Especially the garage. Stuff everywhere! Where did it all come from? We had cleared out our old house (or so we thought) before the rest of our possessions were packed in boxes, so what had happened? Have they been breeding while tucked away safely in a store somewhere in deepest Ayrshire?
And so began the daily task of opening a box to reveal its contents, groaning in despair at what we found (a plastic lid for some unknown plastic box? A bashed teapot? A bowl still filled with paperclips?) and consigning the lot to what is known in the West of Scotland as the Coup, and to the rest of the world as the recycling centre.
While dealing with this mish-mash of disorganised and unwanted belongings, which I’ll call Stuff, it struck me that dealing with my Stuff in the boxes was not dissimilar to the process of editing in creative writing. The same rules seemed to apply to both.
My Rule number 1 of editing my writing is to put it away for a while, quite a long while, not just a few days and then bring it out for a fresh look.
That is precisely what we did with our Stuff. We put it away in store for quite a few months. And now we’re looking at it with fresh eyes.
When I look at my writing after I’ve put it aside for a while, I can see plenty of bits I want to cut, bits that I want to change and bits that look jaded and cliched.
When we opened the boxes filled with our Stuff…. yup, you get it.
Rule number 2 of editing says that pruning and cutting your work enhances what’s left. Every sentence, every word should earn its place.
Our trips to the Coup with redundant Stuff are becoming an almost daily occurrence and we will shortly be on first name terms with the wee man in charge. At home, we can now almost see the carpet and can move freely around the house without it being like an assault course.
Rule number 3 states that moving the position of an incident to eg the end of a chapter, adds drama and encourages the reader to continue.
I don’t know about drama, unless you count the arguments, heated discussions and explosions of sweary words as we attempt to move furniture around the house. There is too much of it and where we thought to put it doesn’t work. There is a limit to the number of chairs a room can support unless you intend holding a public meeting there.. Why have we so much furniture anyway? Give me the Japanese minimalist style any day.
Rule number 4 says to look out for clumsy phrasing, typos, tautologies and any other errors that detract from the text.
Ok, who put that glass coffee table right where I couldn’t see it? And why is there a huge roll of sticky tape sitting in the cutlery drawer? No, I don’t know where the spare toilet rolls are. Try the fridge.
Rule number 5? Have a coffee. We’ve earned it.