Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Burnt peaches, Rewrites - and wasting time

It had taken me ages to prepare that second saucepan of peaches. I poured the small amount of water over the sugar and stirred until it started to boil. I turned the stove plate down and thought I’d wouldn’t start writing this blog post before it had finished cooking. Just a few minutes to check my email inbox before stirring it all again. After all, there could be that email from my publisher about the cover for my new book, Justice at Baragula coming out in a few months.

Well, there was that blog post from a writer friend I’d missed responding to for several days. Just a few lines should do it. Then I saw there were a few posts on that American Christian Fiction writers digest that interested me. A few minutes later – or I thought it was ‘a few’ – I went to check the peaches.

Horror. Froth had oozed up, tumbling over, down the sides of the saucepan, onto the plate, the stove. . .and the peaches were the wrong colour. Brown! Burnt. Ruined? A waste of time?
It had taken me hours, even days to decide on the plot for my next book. I took many hours to get to know my hero and heroine’s characters. Even after filling out those basic character questionnaire sheets they still had to let me get to know them when I started writing down their story in those first few chapters. Oh no, too much back-story! But the reader needs to know what happened all those years ago to understand why they are reacting the way I need them to. Would a prologue help?

I took more hours writing and re-writing that prologue. Mmm, much better, and now to change those other chapters. Rewriting took a lot of time. Then I re-read that prologue again. But what about the dialogue through those headphones? Had better check if the passenger and pilot can talk to each other like that in a small one engine plane. My brother once owned a Cessna the same as the one I’ve invented for this scene. A phone call to him should do it.

Horror. Headphones not needed at all except for perhaps the pilot to hear air traffic-control through them! Prologue ruined? A waste of time? Manuscript been put aside and is still waiting. . .waiting. . .
Now I have a burnt saucepan soaking – a very burnt saucepan! The peaches are in a clean one until they cool down. A taste? Hmm. . .doesn’t really taste burnt but does have a certain "tang". Perhaps I won’t have to throw them all out after all?

Now I have about three-quarters of that first draft written but no prologue that will work. Now my angst with myself has cooled down, now I’ve had more time to think about the characters, the conflict that separates them, breaking their hearts. Do I really have to throw out all those words no longer needed?

I taste the peaches. Mmm. . .not too burnt?. Perhaps just caramelised sugar? And there are still more on the tree waiting to be picked!

I re-read the manuscript. Mmm. . .not too bad. Perhaps just some more depth of emotion needed, some more showing instead of telling, more dialogue, and then of course that satisfying conclusion still to write!

No time wasted after all? Just a learning experience:-

1. Don’t check emails – or blogs - while cooking.

2..Don’t expect that first draft will not need rewriting, revising, rewriting, re. . .everything!

( But perhaps I did have the same expression today as my grand-daughter on her bad day?)


  1. Time is never wasted if you can find a way to use the errors :)

    First drafts are exactly that- first drafts. such writing is never a waste :)

  2. Now I'm not feeling so grumpy, Tabitha, I wholeheartedly agree!

  3. I love this post Mary! I love the parallel between the peaches and your MS. Hehe. I've made the same mistake - computer while cooking - bad news!! :) And I'm into my third re-working of a story I've had in my head for years - but then I learn more about the craft and realise I have to start over. Loving the learning experience though. XXOO

  4. I really enjoyed reading this, Mary!

  5. All the very best with your re-writes, Amanda. One thing I have learnt the hard way - why do I learn that way so many times? - is that I can over-edit and the writing loses sparkle somehow. It has been years since I looked at this manuscript though so rather different.
    Thank you, Mandy. Confession time: The blog post was due and I didn't have a clue what to write about. Had just sat down after the rescue of those peaches - which by the way taste quite nice with ice cream or yoghurt of course!

  6. I love the insight on your writing here Mary and you definately sound like my kind of cook! I too have cooked things a fraction too long when perusing the computer.
    Nicole :)