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Kathryn White

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Almost Done

It’s amazing how mad writing can make you. Sometimes it as easy as sleeping – subconscious, peaceful – and dreaming – lucid, apparent. Of course, sometimes it hurts. And frustrates. And makes you want to throw things. Or me. Sometimes it is not good enough for ages. And ages. And ages again. Then suddenly (I say the word in jest) it is. Click. Click. Click. And then you can make that cup of tea that you have been promising yourself as a reward, as if the four-year-old inside is still coercible. She is.

And now, near the end the vulnerability surfaces. When the first draft is laid down I just write. If I can’t be brave and honest then my voice will sound like yours and yours. It’s kinda scary, but I don’t ask, I just write. The second, I notice what the story is. Spot some themes, ignore them. Erase sections and characters that became nothing. Take out rants. Change settings. Close travel time. (It seems here art imitates life, I spend so much time in airports, stations and waiting rooms that I write them in to my MS). Third I usually change narrators according to what would be most appropriate, i.e. i think about it and decide (I say usually because I have other MSs that have been discarded). Fourth, language. This time I am on a The Shipping News and Inheritance of Loss pluk. Obv, I won’t sound anything like them, but the point here is care. And poetry in words. I realised I prefer studying poetry. Now i am on my Fifth & Final Draft. Cleaning up. Making sure themes are tight, motifs flow, leitmotifs are in place/thematically correct/ not overlapping (for e.g. I gave both Nice Guy and Dream Guy “gravel” beards. Dream Guy got to keep his).

Cue aforementioned vulnerability. The worries. This is very presumptuous of me. And. I am so obvious, I can see my oeuvre in 40 years time. Also, will it be good enough, will I ever be good enough, what the fuck is good enough? Is it perfect yet? No. It’s not. Definitely not. Should I submit it if it is not perfect. Another: oh god, I am so not looking forward to the conversation: Oh wow, you wrote about my mother. Or, so that guy – that’s me? It’s all about you and me, isn’t it. And: I never knew you understood Post-Colonial Theory, you haven’t even got a degree (oh fuck off). And: that scene, like near the book, that must have happened for you to write about it. (Er, no, I am a professional imagineer). And again: I am not so sure how I feel about the way you depicted my father. (Excuse me). And more! I can’t believe you feel that way about x, y z. It’s a book, it’s made up, it’s all bollocks. And yet, it’s not, is it.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    August 27th, 2009 @15:21 #
     
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    Loved this, Kate. I could listen to writers talk about how they write forever and never get bored. Five drafts? Wow, I'm impressed. I normally do three and even then I do the rewrites chapter by chapter. Well done on picking up the gravel beard. It's a lovely image, but you don't want to populate your MS with gravelly menfolk.

    I love that word 'imagineer'. Fantastic. That's what we all aspire to be. And I'm so relieved that you also get flak from friends and family about the way you supposedly portrayed certain people or situtations. Good, good luck with the rest of it!

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    August 27th, 2009 @15:33 #
     
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    This post is like a stand-alone therapy session for writers. Thanks K.

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  • <a href="http://sveneick.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sven</a>
    Sven
    August 27th, 2009 @15:48 #
     
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    I feel you Kate, I hear you, read you. I am terrified of writing manuscripts for all the reasons you say. I have been thinking of writing 150 character twitter novels because these would mirror the attention span of my muse. I particularly liked that bit about Post Colonial Theory, degrees, and fucking off.

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    August 27th, 2009 @17:47 #
     
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    Thanks guys :)

    Sven, good luck with the Twitter novel. But may i suggest Flutter - even less to worry about ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeLZCy-_m3s&feature=fvst

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    August 27th, 2009 @17:59 #
     
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    Recommend the video link, folks.

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  • <a href="http://sveneick.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sven</a>
    Sven
    August 27th, 2009 @18:02 #
     
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    Oh man, that was hilarious. Twitter totally had that coming.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 27th, 2009 @19:05 #
     
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    Wonderful post, glorious vid. Still giggling. Kitty, may your fifth draft land in kind, loving hands. Well done!

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 27th, 2009 @19:08 #
     
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    Ooh. *snorts tea* The editor is in, and she has just taken a second look at Sven's first comment. Something you two would like to share?

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    August 28th, 2009 @11:18 #
     
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    Love this.
    And by coincidence picked up a great post via Bibliophile Stalker on how writer's block does not exist. Worth reading in its entirety here: http://www.suvudu.com/2009/08/the-writing-life-i-dont-believe-in-writers-block.html

    But the important bit, which overlaps with Kate's first para is:

    Ultimately, there’s only one thing to do; You put on your big girl panties and you deal. You start meditating, you find a good shrink, you form a support group, you adjust your routine, you write the book that’s just for you and you’re never going to show to anyone so the pressure of having to go on stage is off long enough to prove to yourself that you can still lay words down. You do whatever you have to that does not involve self-destruction. NOTE: If you are doing alchohal, drugs, self-cutting (and I’ve known writers who do all of them), GET HELP NOW. But you do not lie on the sofa eating bon bons and wailing (unless they’re really good bon bons and then you have my permission to do this for three hours on a Sunday afternoon). Or sit in the bar nursing your scotch and wailing. That’s not how pros behave, that’s how my seven-year-old behaves (metaphorically speaking of course).

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