On writing

What do you do if you know the novel you are writing is already out-of-date?

In some ways, writing Barrain is like flogging the proverbial dead horse.


Because the material is out-of-date before we start.

The term ‘bird watching’ is now obsolete, replaced by the term ‘birding’. The use of ‘bird watching’ as a term for guys looking for girls is even more outdated.

The original draft of Barrain would be close to 15 years old. When it was written, bird watching—for guys looking at girls—was losing favour, but still common enough for us to use.

To continue with the equine analogies, that horse has long since bolted from the starting gate. No-one uses it now.

Yet in Barrain, the protagonist is only dragged into the story because of ‘bird watching’. If we didn’t have that, Scott wouldn’t be around to be carried to another world, and so on.

Can we save the story?

I’m not sure yet. Or rather, of course we can, but how much work will it take, and is it worth it?

How might we fix it?

We would need to rewrite the start of the novel to give Scott an excuse to join Caid on his bird hunt.

A different start is unlikely to involve a bunch of enthusiastic elderly birdwatchers, so Elspeth and the others will probably go, replaced by a younger set. Melissa’s relationship with Scott—if Melissa survives the transition—will be different.

Why then, if these major changes will happen anyway, don’t we just do them now?

Because we wouldn’t finish the story.

If we have to rewrite so much we will put the novel to one side as too hard, and never touch it again.

Little steps at a time, and every rewrite we do polishes the rest of the story. Besides, we haven’t quite given up on a less drastic solution yet.

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