Thursday, 8 May 2008

The ripple effect

I am exactly halfway through the rewrite on Book 3. I enjoy rewrites, especially when I have other people's notes to act as my framework (in this case an insightful editor at Penguin) but I fear The Ripple Effect. The ripple effect is what happens when you change one thing - for example, I have shifted a major incident in my main character's past - and this action, this dropped stone, carries on across the manuscript right until the edges. Today, just now in fact, I got to the point in the novel where the incident originally was. But it's not there now, which would be fine except the incident (let's call it A) led to B and without A how do I now get to B? I can't cut B, but I can't move B either. So I'm stuck.

(Which is always the perfect time to check emails and see if they have that travel cot I want on ebay)

The ripple effect makes rewriting a manuscript or a screenplay a little like playing a game of chess, having to see the big picture and think several moves ahead. And I never was exceptionally good at chess. But the big changes, the paradigm shifts, are what make a rewrite more than a polish. You can polish as much as you like but if something is not working then all you have is a shiny but useless thing.

So though I fear it, I know it is worthwhile. Probably more worthwhile than coming on line to find out how old Mariah Carey is merely to satisfy an idle curiosity (38, is that all? feels like she's been around for as long as Madonna and Madonna is 50) And so now I shall go back to where A used to be and figure out what to do about B.

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