Saturday, March 25, 2006

Romesh Revising

Romesh Gunasekera's long awaited new novel The Match hits the bookstores this month. The novel, set between Sri Lanka, Manila and London reflects the moves that Gunasekera has made in his own life, and draws on the dislocation he felt growing up in an expatriate environment. But he denies that the novel is autobiographical, and tells Judith Palmer in the Independent that he sets out to use a personal geography, rather than a personal history.

He talks too about his attitude to revising his work, honing and revising until the very last minute - tinkering with the text even after the proof copies have been issued. (Much to the delight of his publisher, I'm sure!)

Some time back when I was researching Gunasekera for the article I wrote for the Star I came across the South Asia Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive which has generously put up some of his drafts online so that we can get an idea of how the text has been written and revised. Among the treasures here: handwritten notes for Monkfish Moon and revisions made to pages from Reef.

Note to self: leave wide margins on all draft copies in future for scribbling changes!

Note to self and everyone else: great writers revise, revise, revise and revise and then maybe revise some more. Mediocre writers (including one or two who've passed manuscripts my way) say "Do I really have to?"

9 comments:

Yvonne Foong said...

The last part makes me feel guilty. haha!

Glenda Larke said...

Ah, that last bit is absolutely true. People sometimes ask how many times I revise an MS. I have NO idea. Parts of any book get revised and revised and revised until I am heatily sick of the sight of it. Other bits never get touched, because - wonders of wonders - I got it right first time around.

The labour of writing is in the first draft. The joy of writing comes in those revisions - in the miracle of turning the mundane into something that sings...

And the surprise of writing is when you find that supposedly perfect book of yours comes back from the copy edit looking like it has had a dose of chicken pox...

The wonder of writing is when you realise that other people have helped you to make that "perfect" book into something even better.

The Visitor said...

hey, when r u goin to review Raman's book?

bibliobibuli said...

yes visitor ... i must do that ... only just now reading fiction is difficult and i'm sticking to poetry and essays ... mt backlog of things to read is frightening ... also said i'd review robert raymer's book ...

Sham said...

Robert Raymer has a book out??!! Must get my hands on it :)
He was a fantastic critic for the plays I was in during my Penang days and of course a brilliant lecturer up at USM - Sharon what's the title?
Sham!

bibliobibuli said...

yvonne - if it makes you or anyone else feel guilty, GOOD!

glenda - thanks so much for sharing your experiences. find i also love to revise and feel the story growing and expanding and taking on new colours as i write. i'm winning if i'm enjoying myself. if i'm not i reckon the reader won't either.

sham - robert has rereleased his collection of short stories - many of them rewritten. avaialble from silverfish

Anonymous said...

"Ah, that last bit is absolutely true. People sometimes ask how many times I revise an MS. I have NO idea. Parts of any book get revised and revised and revised until I am heatily sick of the sight of it. Other bits never get touched, because - wonders of wonders - I got it right first time around."

You must take a very long time to write. Can't afford to write that way.

"The labour of writing is in the first draft. The joy of writing comes in those revisions - in the miracle of turning the mundane into something that sings..."

Well that's different, I don't think you write for a living do you ? you write for pleasure, and don't really care if it doesn't sell ? I'd love to feel the miracle of turning the mundane into something that sings. In the end though, the harsh shouting of the bills easily overcome the sweet music in the distance :)

"And the surprise of writing is when you find that supposedly perfect book of yours comes back from the copy edit looking like it has had a dose of chicken pox..."

Happens all the time. But whatever.

"The wonder of writing is when you realise that other people have helped you to make that "perfect" book into something even better."

You cannot improve on perfection :P

The day I'm retired (not a possibility considering current finances) I'll try some of this magic miracle singing thing. The only people that think snow is beautiful are the ones inside where it's warm.

OTOH, how do you pay your bills, I mean seriously ? how much of a percentage does one get out of publishing, 10% ? even if you sold 10K copies, you'd only get what, 1K ? and a book takes months to write.

Anonymous said...

Er, I meant 10k bux not 10K copies :) oh well I don't have an editor on here :)

Anonymous said...

Robert Raymer's newest book is Lovers & Strangers Revisited. He has a website now at www.borneoexpatwriter.com and where you can download his stories and writing tips. According to a friend, he just moved to Kuching and is now teaching in Unimas.