Final polishing is a curious exercise. On one level it’s very satisfying. All my little tweaks should (in theory) make the manuscript a little better, and that obviously feels worthwhile. On another level, it’s rather tedious, going over words I’ve already read a gajillion times. I’m always anxious to get to the end and get on with something else. On yet another level, it’s mildly terrifying – I make these corrections, wondering how on earth the mistakes sneaked through the previous fifty revisions, and fearing what other awful stuff still survives, unnoticed. (But that’s what editors are for, right?)
Last year I wrote here about how books are never really finished but simply abandoned, and this morning that feels more true than ever. Anyway, the good news is that the past six months of rewriting have, I believe, produced a much better book than what we had last summer. I bloody hope so.
So now we wait, and I have to find something else to occupy myself in the mornings. I have begun Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which I am enjoying very much, although I am wishing we hadn’t watched a couple of episodes of The Tudors, as visions of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers – for whom I have always harbored an irrational dislike – now keep popping uninvited into my head.
One of my great fears as a writer is that someone else is beavering away in their bedroom on a story similar to my own, and that their book will be published first. I’ve been wondering whether Mantel began her novel aware that a deluge of material on the court of Henry VIII was already in the proverbial pipeline – one movie, an HBO mini-series, and at least two novels immediately spring to mind. It doesn’t much matter in her case – her writing’s so damn good that she could write about anything and make it fresh and bewitching. But that must take some nerve.
Finally, an unrelated but delicious quote from this month’s Stereophile magazine: “Keith Jarrett beats you to death with his greatness.”