It happened in the early hours of this morning. After yet another nocturnal trip to the bathroom (one of the joys of aging) it hit me. I got it, I finally got it. I suddenly understood why a book – no, my book – would need to go through rewrite after rewrite.
Everything I have read has said that once your book is “completed” that it definitely is not finished. I just did not understand. After all, I was spending a lot of time on the writing of it. I know from years of writing reports at work that you do not spend too long worrying how to start writing. That way, you will never start. Just get something down on paper. Then you can work with it.
So that is what I have been doing: just get something on paper, leave it a week before reworking it, work through the piece searching for certain words and phases eliminating or rewording before getting someone to review the piece and rework in the light of their feedback. Having done all that, I am up to version seven on one of my chapters. How on earth could that need more work?
But, as I said, now I get it. What I have written is probably (no, definitely) boring. I have probably spent too long trying to fit into my idea of what the book should be called. I know that I have obsessed about the source material.
The source material is why I am writing this book. The source material excites me. “Source material” does not excite the average reader. For them, the story must come alive. That is my challenge. I have collected the source material – it amounts to about 10,000 images. I took and formatted over 8,000 of those photographs myself. Much of the material has been poured over by academics and writers over the years but I know that there are some overlooked gems within it. Most of it, however, is much more mundane. There are thousands of invoices, bills of lading and account books – not the stuff that sets a reader’s heart racing.
It is clear to me now that I will have to rework the book when I have completed it. I cannot know at this stage what its shape should be. More than this, I will also need to make it come alive. Captain Thomas Bowrey was a business man at home with his account books and obsessed with getting profit from his trade but he did this in an alien and exotic environment thousands of miles from home while facing danger from the weather, disease and pirates. It is this story that needs to be told.