Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
About six or seven years ago, our son took me up on my brave but perhaps rather foolhardy offer that I was going to make his birthday cake. ``I want a cake in the shape of the new Volkswagen Beetle,'' he announced. Immediately, I had to question my own sanity. What sort of challenge was I taking on here?
You reckon that was tough? He wanted it in the colours of his favourite football team too.
As things turned out, it was a work of art. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking with it. I made two rectangular cakes (history calls on me to record the fact that my wife, the beautiful Mrs Authorblog, might have helped in this process - but this is uncomfirmed).
Then I put one rectangular cake on top of the other and stood there like Michelangelo. Well, I thought I looked like Michelangelo, but no one else shared my cheerful optimism.
The cake turned out to be a star attraction. The wing mirrors were pieces of white chewing gum. The brake lights were red Smarties. The headlights were silver discs. The shape of that distinctive automobile body was brilliant. See, I told you I was Michelangelo. All the young guests were in awe of the cake - but hey, the little blighters scoffed it anyway.
When I had the pleasure of a long-distance phone call from that delightful British blogger Carol Cooper we spoke of many things, of cabbages and kings; of winters and springs, of writing yarns and editing things. And I told her the story of the birthday cake in the shape of the Volkswagen Beetle. She is far too well bred to ask mundane questions like: ``Oi, what does a birthday cake have to do with editing a novel?''
Because she understood my point. It has everything to do with writing and editing a novel. How did I carve the VW out of two rectangular cakes? Simple. I just cut away everything that didn't look like a VW. A little bit of chopping here, a little bit of chiselling there and some judicious finishing touches to complete the masterpiece. Worked beautifully.
Same thing with a book. I never edit while I write, because it's the quickest path to ulcers and irrational cencerns about quality. Don't interrupt the creative process. Just keep writing. And when you've finished the entire manuscript, then start the editing process.
You'll be amazed at how easy it is that way. Having finished the writing, you can then see immediately what doesn't belong, or you can modify what needs tweaking. It's just like creating a Volkswagen birthday cake.