Friday, 20 November 2009

Light In Winter

Winter is a good time for writing. Dark days, dark thoughts, dark feelings drive you inwards in search of light, magic and adventure. Sunday 13 102

My new novel* found it’s birth in late spring days in French Languedoc when there were still wild flowers on the byways and the riverbanks. By eleven o’clock in the old town of Agde the deep shadows of the tall buildings offered relief from the sun climbing to its mid-day zenith.

And out of this heat, out of these shadows, out of time, came my story.

So now here at home it’s my delight to escape our dark northern November and re-enter that Southern world of bright light and 189 deep shade, of an old world and a new one, as I hammer away at the final draft of my new novel.

I’m often asked how many drafts a novel goes through: a question hard to answer in these technological days.

There is the handwritten draft, then the transcription draft, when the novel really evolves. After that there may be all kinds of changes as I go through the story again and again. This may involve shipping around chapters and paragraphs to tighten the structure, adjusting events to meet to the internal logic of the story, taking out characters, putting new ones in their place, replacing prose with dialogue to increase the pace, replacing dialogue with prose to render some reassuring distance and clarity for the reader. (How much one thinks of the reader in these final drafts!) Wednesday Agde 047

How many drafts? Three? Ten? hard to tell in these days when redrafting is mostly done on the computer and does not involve painful retyping at each stage much recourse to SnoPake. My modern way might involve four printed off copies to see how the changes work on the page but these are the result of eight or ten ‘redrafts’ on the screen.

The first drafts involve great inspiration and intuitive story- making, along with the creative melding of research into a real but invented world. But these last drafts are intricate, detailed exercises in both the writer’s and editor’s craft to make sure my readers ‘get’ my idea and enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Soon it will be done and off to my agent Juliet just in time for me to dust ofStreet Scenes 002f the tree and make some winter light of my own...


* I have at last found a title, but as yet it is a secret…



  1. Hi Wendy - you've captured exactly that feeling of closing down, going inwards, that you get in winter. You're right - it's creative, though I hadn't thought about it quite like that. And it's years since I read the beautiful ~Emily Dickinson poem. Thank you.

  2. Ahhh the dark of winter is indeed a good time for writing-- cozy at any rate. Thanks for a lovely look at your process and love the photos too.

  3. How lovely to be reminded of our days in Agde in the brilliance of that southern light - what a creative time it was for us Wendy - I know your novel, just like the place, is full of light, magic and adventure - I look forward to reading it very much

    Avril x

  4. Hi Wendy,
    I must say it was a real pleasure to read this post.
    We don't have a real winter in comparison to that of the UK (unless you go into the high country). Yet, so much of the rest of your post is a reflection of my own experience.
    Some of sections of my writing would be redrafted 10-15 times until all feels right. Yet other portions have not changed beyond minor corrections. Those are the ones where my characters are weaving what seems to be their magic, as they tell their story to me.
    How interesting you have struggled with a title. I always find a title almost impossible.

  5. I have indulged in just too much curling up by the fire since returning to Devon and your post reminds me that I would usually be writing much more in wintertime. Not this winter. Enough hibernation - I must get my head down and get on with it!

    I was particularly struck by your comments that the early stages of novel writing are about the role of inspiration and intuitive story-making (together with research) and that the reader comes into ascendancy in the latter stages. A welcome reminder of the effort that goes into well-crafted fiction.

  6. Thanks for a lovely look at your process and love the photos too.

    Work from home India



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