I love the way that one thing will always lead to another. You read one book, and then go in search of more books by the same author, or a book that was referenced among its pages (that is one for us oldies, kids – these days these connected references are called hyperlinks).
It is why you can start on the Internet at nine in the morning and still you find yourself there some hours later. Marketeers have of course seized upon this: ‘if you liked X, you may also like Y’ algorithms abound on the web and I delight every time Netflix or Amazon gets it wrong. There is nothing quite as powerful as discovering these gems yourself but thanks anyway, guys.
I wrote the other day about scrolling through and listening to interviews on the Scoobius Pip Podcast that were with people whose names I did not recognize and this has recently led to a couple of delightful and unexpected finds.
One I listened to the other day was with a writer called John Osbourne, who sounded like a top class person. Not only is he interesting because he is one of only a handful of writers who actually talks about writing as something he actually enjoys – loves even – rather something that one grits ones teeth and sets out to do no matter what – but he also mentioned, almost as a throwaway comment that he loved the blog by fellow writer Tim Clare which is called Death of 1000 cuts.
I visited the website, which I think is based on the idea that Tim will take one submitted piece of writing and offer brutal feedback, exposing its soft underbelly and exposing its weaknesses, pretty much one sentence at a time. It is very good, very clear feedback and is also very funny. It is not at all intended to take down the writer, but to look at the writing and clearly examine how it can be improved and strengthened and occasionally point out where it is working well.
The reason I think this is what he does all the way through the blog is because I have not read much of it yet, because the first thing I saw was that Tim had begun to trial the format as a podcast recently and so I headed straight for that. There are only eight so far and they are generally about 20 minutes long so it has taken me less than 24 hours to consume his entire back catalogue – and I feel so much better for it.
One of my biggest wake-up calls when I was writing a bit a few years ago, was hearing someone else read my writing out aloud.
‘NO! I found myself thinking, ‘They are reading it wrong!’
But they were not. They were reading it as it read to them off the page. The fact that I depended upon the reader hearing it in my voice was a failure of my writing, not of the poor sod trying to read it.
All the stuff I put up on here is absolutely first draft material. I have a quick look for typos as I go and try and tidy them up. I may occasionally tweak a sentence, but basically it is just me writing from my head to the keyboard. The posts that take the longest are the fiction ones because I do very basic edits on the fly, but they are absolutely first draft material.
I revisited one of these posts with some of the 1000 cuts feedback that I had heard on other pieces of writing in mind. I decided to choose a 250 word introduction to submit for consideration. It was an interesting exercise.
I have not yet submitted it, but what I may do is post first and second drafts for comparison because what my second pass at the writing did, if nothing else, is to reduce the work found on page one from 380 words to 250. The question is, did it improve with editing?