På något sätt får jag ibland för mig att skrivandet, hantverkandet, ångesten och allt det där, blir lättare ju fler böcker man har skrivit. Not so. Här har jag kopierat in vad Douglas Kennedy skrev på Facebook om redigering. En fascinerande procedur och inte helt olik min egen. Skriva. Pausa. Skriva ut på papper. Läsa. Försöker läsa utan att markera men eftersom jag är så effektivt lagd blir det rättning redan vid första läsningen. Och sedan skriva om. Pausa. Och … ja, ni fattar. Medan jag går och lägger mig med Douglas Kennedys ”Five Days” så kan ni läsa här:
”It was truly splendid seeing such a full house and meeting so many of my readers at The Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire (that’s a beautiful seaside town just twenty minutes from central Dublin, for those of you not in the geographic know) on Tuesday night. The reaction to “Five Days’ so far has been largely just wonderful – and readers’ responses are always so interesting to me, because when I w…rite I spent more than a year (often eighteen months) without the manuscript being seen by anyone outside of one or two ‘constant readers’ whom I give the book to as it is being written. As such I largely live alone with the novel – and never show it to an editor until the first draft is finished and edited. There are two reasons for this. The first is the fact that when you read a chapter of a story – and don’t have the next one to turn to next – you immediately start writing the rest of the story in your head (I know I do this whenever a friend gives me a chapter of something to read). The second reason is that my first drafts tend to be overlong, overblown, overwritten. I’ve often called my first draft “the vomit draft” (yes, a charming metaphor). Because everything comes out – and the result is a far too long, far too overcooked novel – and one which needs reduction.
I always have a rule when I finish the first draft: I take a holiday and try not to look at it for at least three weeks. Then the moment of truth arrives when I print it all up (I still have an old-fashioned attachment to the idea of editing with a fountain pen on the printed manuscript) and begin to read through it all for the first time in nearly a month. The cutting and reshaping process – usually around three weeks – starts then. Then this second draft gets delivered to my agents for their initial reaction. Then off it goes to my editors at my publishers in New York, Paris and London – and I hold my breath as I await their thoughts. Three meetings in those three cities follow. And now armed with their ideas and critiques I return to my desk and begin the process of a third draft. Six to eight weeks later the third draft is delivered. And inevitably there will be more comments and ideas that will shape the fourth draft.
In all the editing process – including the grammatical ‘copy editing’ – lasts around six months. In the end all the cuts and changes are my decision. If I don’t agree with a suggestion I won’t follow through on it. But I have worked for so many years with these three superb editors – Susan Sandon at Hutchinson/Random House UK, Sarah Branham at Atria/Simon and Schuster, and Françoise Triffaux at Editions Belfond, Paris – that I do listen very seriously to what they have to say, and follow up on so many of their suggestions. Because their goal is the same as mine: making the novel as good as it can be.
And here’s an interesting numerical detail regarding the process of reduction. The first draft of “Five Days” was around 658 pages; the final (fourth) draft – and the one which became, outside of copy-editing changes, the printed novel – was 411 pages. In other words, a lot of words – nearly two hundred and fifty pages of them, in fact – ended up being excised by me in the editing process. Not every writer works this way – but the process of overwriting and then editing it down is the one that works for me. And even when – in the course of their first draft – I sometimes think to myself, “God, this is getting far too long”. I just keep going, knowing that even the stuff I am going to cut is an essential part of the initial creative process.
Then again, as Somerset Maugham noted: “There are five basic rules for writing a novel… and nobody knows what they are”.