Writing is rewriting

Style and Consistency

There are two reasons why I have read and read and reread the book countless times, and why I'll do it once last time now: style and consistency.

Style

Style is the most important reason. Some sections (letters) in the book started out as real letters I wrote when I was 23. When I started to think of using them as the basis of the book I was only two years older. At the time I had a rather different motivation for writing. I wanted to express opinions that, I believed, mattered, or that I thought to be profound. No more. Now I want to write a novel. A story that flows. With space for the reader to breath, not being stuffed with 'revelations'. It is often said that writing is the art of erasing or deleting text. In my case it is all too true. There was a correction period where I literally removed practically every last sentece of a paragraph. They always seemed to sum things up, clarify something that was better left to the reader, or were once meant to be funny. It was quite shocking to discover this, I can tell you. Some of this, inexplicably, I found rereading the first letter in the book.

Leaving Tallinn by bus (1997)

Below an example. It concerns a bus-ride from Tallinn (Estonia) to the Netherlands. Having crossed a border, W. (with fever and unable to find an occasion to go to the toilet) exits the bus and smokes a joint.

This part is not actually based on a real letter (although based on a real busride), but written from scratch in 1997:

Having passed the border the bus stops in a field. My intestines so far have obeyed me. Me and my body are cooperating rather well today. This morning there was no occasion to drop some weight, and after noticing this it simply stopped knocking on my sphincter. Where my body abides the rhythms, my brain needs to break its logical structure once in a while, to end continuously having to overlook the unceasing chaotic struggle of the information current, preventing the to reach the surface. Occasionally it wants to let the river roar, just observe and lay back, not to have to pay attention all the time. In other words it desires drugs.

Horrible.Where my body abides the rhythms, my brain... blablabla. That is juvenile rambling. And as you can see there is some sort of conclusion at the end of the paragraph. At the time I felt the need to write something about why W. (with whom I clearly identified) would smoke marijuana. But it doesn't add anything. It is a clear example of the author needlessly trying to show something off, interfering with the main character's story. It had to go, sooner rather than later.

Leaving Tallinn by bus (2005)

But, to my surprise, after the last time I went to correct part i (early 2005 I believe), some of the silly rambling was still left:

Having passed the border the bus stops in a field. My intestines so far have obeyed me. Me and my body are cooperating rather well today. This morning there was no occasion to drop some weight, and after noticing this it simply stopped knocking on my sphincter. Where my body abides the rhythms, my brain needs to break its logical structure once in a while. Occasionally it wants to let the river roar, just observe and lay back, not to have to pay attention all the time.

Leaving Tallinn by bus (2006)

And this is what the paragraph looked like March 2006:

Having passed the border the bus stops in a field. My intestines so far have obeyed me. Me and my body are cooperating rather well today. This morning there was no occasion to drop some weight, and after noticing this it simply stopped knocking on my sphincter.

No more abiding and roaring. The bus stops in a field, and W. lights a joint (next paragraph). We don't need to know why he feels the need to smoke, and that is all there is to it.

This kind of 'correcting' I have to do very very often, especially in the first volume. Too much was written almost 10 years ago.

Consistency

The second reason, consistency, has to do with the size and the structure of the book. The story is actually recurring (circular novel), and what happens can only become perfectly clear on rereading the novel. This means that future events (that were also thought of much later), retrospectively need a seed. Much like introducing a gun when somebody is being shot with it 100 pages later. My problem is that with 3 volumes, and writing only incidentally, I am not always sure the gun was introduced, or alternatively, I am clueless why on earth a gun is in the room in the first place. I need to reread because the book is simply too vast to keep track of what it is doing. It has no master. I just groom it.