Sunday, 13 July 2008

Rough stitches

As a child I learned to sew using rough stitches, or tacking, to hold two pieces of material together while I mastered the trickier task of small, neat stitches - the ones which would see the light of day and endure the test of time.

The last task of any sewing class was unpicking the rough stitches and removing the tacking thread.

This is the stage I fancy I've reached with the novel. After unearthing all the inconsistencies in plot and character, ironing out the timeline and uprooting typos, I've discovered an almost invisible membrane between the narrative and the reader, a layer of Author that needs peeling away.

At the risk of introducing another metaphor...

You know those plastic covers that come on fancy sofas and which some people choose to leave there, a layer of protection against casual wear and tear by family members and friends? Inadvertantly, I'd left the covers on parts of my narrative, held the action at arm's length not with the passive voice but simply by the unnecessary addition of "she thought", "she felt", "she wondered" or "surmised". I imagine this must have helped to steer me through the intricacies of how the action impacted on my heroine's psychology. They were the rough stitches, my version of those naff plastic covers on the sofa. So now I'm stripping them away, one by one, to allow the reader to kick back and get comfy in the story. Not that it's a comfy read, you understand.

Worth noting to myself, because I wasn't aware of the habit as I was writing the first draft. Nor did I spot it on a quick first read through. I feel I'm learning to critique my work far better than I was once able. At least I hope so.


Tania Hershman said...

That's a very interesting and useful observation, and great metaphors, the rough stitching and the plastic covers. Thought-provoking. Thank you!

Sarah Hilary said...

I'm glad you found this useful, Tania. I was wondering if it was simply a very personal foible. *g*

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I find when I'm reading, I trip over ALL 'he thought's, and that stuff... Lovely to hear that these are coming out. I do the same!

Sarah Hilary said...

Thanks, Vanessa, we make a great editing team - red pens at five paces!