You’re Beautiful: the story of a novel, part six

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Endless surprises as I search through my old stash of Japan photos for images that relate to the background to my Bath Novel Award shortlisted novel You’re Beautiful. Did I really write sections of it longhand while lounging in the garden of my beach house? I have no memory of doing so, but the camera doesn’t lie, you know. (Although why on earth I took these photos in the first place is one of the many questions that went through my head when I found them.)

I really don’t like writing longhand. Apart from anything else, I’m so used to typing that I can barely hold a pen any more, let alone form legible letters. And imagine not being able to copy, paste, cut, delete, undelete, delete again! I’m so glad I wasn’t a writer in the olden days. (They did have fantastic pens in Japan though, like the Pilot V Corn that I have sadly never been able to find since leaving the stationery capital of the world.)

I was curious to know how much the final version of the photographed snippet below had changed from its handwritten first-draft version. This is from one of the early chapters of the book, when protagonist John realises that the girl he’s been secretly watching on the train every week actually lives in his neighbourhood. John in turn is having to fend off the amorous advances of his colleague Tammy, who has just accosted him in the 7-Eleven. The handwritten version felt so familiar to me that I was sure it must have survived verbatim, and I was planning to make some wise comment here about how the process of writing longhand without the possiblities of easy deletion leads to a deeper, more considered writing experience or some such piffle. But the final version was . . . whatever the opposite of verbatim is. Compare and contrast:

That’s when he sees her. The girl with the auburn hair. Pushing in through the door as he’s pushing his way out and he wants to stop and turn and stare but he knows that somewhere behind him is Tammy so he keeps going, out of the door, along the pavement, round the corner, in a walk that’s almost a run and there are footsteps behind him faster and closer and he thinks about running but what if it’s not Tammy, what if it’s her, the auburn-haired girl, what if she’s been watching him the way he’s been watching her, so he stops . . .

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2 Responses to You’re Beautiful: the story of a novel, part six

  1. This made me smile, as I echo those sentiments exactly. My handwriting is illegible even to me these days, and I’m incapable of crafting the perfect sentence in my head before throwing words on a page. Perhaps the computer makes me lazy, I don’t know. But I have deep, deep respect for writers of yore. And for anyone nowadays who prefers longhand.

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