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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Reflections on the writer's craft

Monday, May 11th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

I read through in the type-written copy some of the later chapters of my novel, and they seemed to be ineffective and sketchy. Which severely depressed me, and to recover myself I had to read certain other chapters which I knew would not come out badly. I happened to see in an old Idler today "Q's" article on his first book. In it he says that he wrote "Dead Man's Rock" without a trace of feeling. His view is that if on revision, the work moves its author, then there is surely some good in it. Amen! Parts of my novel have had that blessed effect on me.

In "Vailima Table Talk", an article by Isobel Strong (Stevenson's step-daughter and amanuensis) in May Scribner, it is said: "He dictates with great earnestness, and when particularly interested unconsciously acts the part of his characters. When he came to the description of the supper Anne has with Flora and Ronald ('St. Ives'), he bowed as he dictated Anne's polite speeches, and twirled his mustache ..." I do that sort of thing myself, but not unconsciously - rather because it amuses me, and deceives me into a belief that I can see the scene which I am describing. But I never can see the scene, or even a single character. Yet, (thanks be to Gawd!) it needs a constant, or at least a repeated, mental effort to grasp the fact that certain stories which I have written, and the novel I am now finishing, aren't really true. I frequently have to say to myself, as it were: "But of course it's not true, really!"

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