There they are, waiting for me, a young woman and her mother. The daughter stands at the edge of the causeway, waiting to cross. The mother is at the edge of the island, greeting the dawn. They don’t see each other, because they’re suspended at different points in time, in different parts of the story. They’ve already met once more after years apart and played out their story to its conclusion. But now they must meet again, live out the story in a slightly different way. And perhaps it will end in the same way, perhaps not…
They are two of the characters in my head, old friends I have written about and left to themselves. I thought their story was finished, but I was wrong. I’ve lived with them, Bethan and Alice, since I was little more than a teenager, starting out on my own journey. They came to life in the book I’ve worked on for half my life and which is still the most precious to me. Re-entering this world is like re-visiting a place you have loved and thrived in. It wraps itself around me like a comforter, welcoming me back. I know the characters as though they’re part of me. Familiar phrases hail me, like the greetings of old friends. I know everything that happens in this world.
It was on this book that I had my first independent feedback. When I read the positive words said about it, I couldn’t help feeling emotional. After so many years of writing, to have someone say it had been worth it was amazing. There were changes that needed to be made but I was happy to get started. Then, life overtook writing and the book sat dormant for four years when my words left me. This year was to be the year I finally finished it. But, I’ve procrastinated and been reluctant to go back there. I’ve loved the process, the discipline and the buzz of creating something new each week for this blog, but all the while, I’ve known that the book was waiting, neglected.
And why? I adore the world of the novel. The setting is a fictionalised version of one of my favourite places in the real world and I could quite happily spend my time there. But how to change it? The amendments I wanted to make seemed daunting. I’d told the story already – how could I then change it after so long? I think I procrastinated because I couldn’t come to terms with the effort it would take to do it. I knew it wasn’t quite right as it was, but getting it right seemed too difficult.
So I did what I often do when I don’t know where to go with a story. I ruminated about it on buses, I wrote other things, I painted and I suppose I knew that eventually, I’d be ready to return. And so I’ve begun. Mapping out chapters all over again, creating new slices of history for the characters, re-reading, cutting, re-writing. All hard work and little creativity. But now, I have the scaffolding. I know roughly where I’m going, so I can begin to write new words. I don’t know where they’ll take me, but I’m sure the journey will be interesting.
How difficult do you find it to re-visit older work and make radical changes? Do you jump straight in or do you procrastinate?