The jigsaw puzzle of early drafts

Elaine Forrestal finds walking on the beach a good way to free up her thoughts and solve problems with her manuscripts

The jigsaw puzzle is almost complete. However, the same can not be said for the actual manuscript which has a way to go yet. I was working on it this week, thinking that all the pieces were in position at last, only to find that there was still one out of place. That’s the way it is when you are drafting and redrafting the story, as I do. There comes a point at which, having made a million changes, you then come across something that looked right before, but suddenly is glaringly out of kilter. The changes around it have thrown it into sharper focus and it must now be moved, or discarded altogether.

There is a point in this manuscript where the young John Ulm asks his father, CTP, whether he feels afraid when he is up in the plane. CTP tells him, yes, sometimes he is afraid, but that’s what makes him fly. When I’m writing a new story there are times when I wonder if it will ever come out  right, but that’s what makes me keep doing it. The challenge for me is to solve that difficult problem, find that elusive word or phrase that will make the story leap off the page. The process can be time-consuming, frustrating, even depressing at times. But that’s what makes writing so compelling for me. Of course there are the good times as well. The times when words just flow down on the page in an enjoyable and refreshing stream. That doesn’t happen very often, and while I sometimes wish it would, deep down I know that I get much more satisfaction from juggling, experimenting and cajoling my characters into revealing their true selves, both to me and my readers.

The adventures of Charles Thomas Phillippe Ulm certainly make great reading. I just have to keep working at finding the very best way to present them.

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