Sanding down to a fine prose

Ok, so I’m really about to crack on with the second draft of Martini Bond: Her hunt for the spy who loved her mum. First, though, I spent the morning having a lay-in, cleaning out cupboards (totally unnecessary), and chatting to the neighbour before he goes off to Iraq (apparently the bar in the compound in Baghdad is called Incoming – perhaps I could use that? But then, maybe I just have).

Now I’ve just done some shredding, aiming to make the paper get stuck in the shredder because that takes hours to put right. Sadly, I failed at that last bit but it did waste some more time. Besides, perhaps shredding is what I need to do with my first draft. It would mentally clear some brain space … and use up a few more minutes before the inevitable act of rewriting.

I emailed a former colleague and now prize-winning poet, Victor Tapner, recently to find out how he approaches his poetry. (His latest book Flatlands is well worth a look.) What he had to say is not pretty, I’m afraid.

“I suppose the cheerful labour of re-drafting does seem to be a necessary part of the discipline, whatever the genre,” he wrote. Yes, yes, I totally agree.

But then came the killer sentence: “I normally spend weeks on a single poem that looks as if it’s been written in a minute and a half.” I can picture him smiling away to himself as he sent me that line. A poem. Taking weeks. 90 seconds to read. I’ve only got weeks to finish a play. Not only a play. But a comedy. One hour to act out. This is not funny.

He went on: “It may go through a couple of dozen drafts and polishings – perhaps many more – before it reaches a point where I’m just dusting over it with a bit of light sandpaper.” Ah. Sandpaper. Now I get it. Pass me the coarse type – the one you need for the most difficult of jobs.

April 4, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Comedy, Comedy writing, Humour, Publishing.


  1. crubin replied:

    When I am short on time but long on work, I remind myself of one of my favorite quotes (is actually derived from a Voltaire quote):

    “Perfectionism is the enemy of done.”

    Needless to say, given I am a perfectionist, I think of this quote often. 🙂

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve been told at various times in my life that I’m a perfectionist too – it’s a nightmare – or is that a Volt-maire?

  2. katballou replied:

    Unfrotunately, I’m the queen of “good enough!” There IS something to be said for careful editing, putting it aside, then taking another look.

    Would love to see your Martini Bond. My husband is a huge James Bond fan, and I’ve always hated 007’s womanizing ways. Would be good to see what he leaves in his wake! But since I’m across the pond, I may have to just read the reviews!

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Thanks for taking the time to visit. “Good enough” is good enough for me! But I have to please the actors, script editor and director…Reviews? Now I’m having a panic attack just thinking about getting that far…

  3. riatarded replied:

    couple dozen more drafts? *Gasp!*

    I am here to formally invite you to The Uninspired Chronicles! 😀

    Love and light x

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Thanks for the invite – I will be sending some stuff your way soon…

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