17 February 2003
I spent yesterday running a fantasy workshop for teenagers, down in Huddersfield. Probably the worst journey in the world, to get there: every possible train-related trouble barring only an actual crash, and it took the best part of five hours for a journey that's usually rated at two. It did add to my store of experience, though - first time I've ever known a train delayed because of a message from somebody's mum - and it was worth it, to spend the afternoon with a bunch of enthusiastic and talented kids. Reminded me hugely of my own self, thirty years ago: eager to learn, mad keen to write, utterly unrestrained. Unrestrained by craft, among other things - but at fifteen that's okay, that's fine, craft is a tempering process that takes years. And restraint is not always a virtue; for a little while I quite wanted to go back, to be fifteen again and spilling over with words, rather than eking them out as I do now. It'd be an opportunity to do it all again but do it differently, write different books, write better books... It has its attractions. But no, not really. I'm happy to stand by the choices that I made, the work I did.
Right now, though, I am getting to revisit work I did six years ago; that's strange enough. I'm checking proofs for vol 1 of the US edition of Outremer, now titled The Devil in the Dust. First time I've looked at the text since the UK edition, I don't reread my own work once it's published; and now I find out why. I don't hate it, I don't even dislike it - but I do want to rewrite it, almost completely. And can't, mustn't, am actually being very good and reading only for errors, not for revision; it is interesting, though, how thoroughly I want to remake it. Not sure I'd feel the same about the early books, or about any books other than these; just that you always make certain decisions at the start of a project, about style and voice and structure, and I'd be really interested to see what happened to these particular books if those decisions had gone another way.
It's also going to be interesting to read through the work I've done for what should be the next fantasy novel, now that I've finally finished the big sample chunk I've been working on. The question is whether I'll want to rethink those same decisions for this work, where I actually have the chance to do it. Even if it means rewriting thirty-five thousand words, and keeping people waiting longer yet. I'll find out later this week, once the proofs are gone.
Oh, and one joyful moment from those proofs: 'Heresy' had got itself Americanised. Into 'Hershey'. Oh, happy day...
© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.