Oct 15, 2010

First Drafts Part 2 by Philip Stott

One aspect of the first draft that can be a snare is the way ideas get fixed in one's mind. A character or an incident, key to the original concept, becomes so much part of your creation that it is untouchable. But a story can develop so far beyond the first draft that some king-pin, perhaps the very thought which put you on the road to writing the story in the first place, can need changing - or even leaving out altogether.

I am brought face-to-face with this whenever I listen to “Still Waters” (well, that would be its title if it were in English). It is my favourite work of my favourite song-writer, Chris Torr. Most of his songs are based on a clever idea around which he crafts thought-provoking poetry. Perhaps his best known is “Hot Gates” which is largely a list of conflict centres strung skilfully together. It was almost certainly inspired by T.S.Elliot's poem “Gerontion”. Torr's “The Falcon” seems to flow from the idea in the line “In my dreams I sing to you, can I sing in your dream too”. In “The Flying Dutchman” it is the urge to refute advice that a seagull cannot be part of a song! But to my mind his best is this Afrikaans love song. The finest love song ever written as far as I am concerned. The only song I have ever heard which tells the truth - the undiluted, sober truth about that most amazing and enigmatic part of human life, the love between a man and a woman.

But it has one flaw. Torr's first draft was sacrosanct.

His stimulus for writing the song was the Afrikaans equivalent of the English proverb “Still waters run deep” (the Afrikaans version is longer and more explicit). But the muse led him from there to such poignancy and beauty that the proverb became totally irrelevant. I have two renderings of that song by his wife, Laurika Rauch. The out-of place section has to be given special treatment to try and make it fit in with the remainder, but, sad to say, those valiant efforts do not quite succeed. That section should have been deleted after the first draft had developed into a work of art. Just as Melvile should have deleted Bulkington when Moby Dick matured into a masterpiece, rather than making him fall overboard after the story had departed from the original plan.

So that first draft, the foundation of everything that becomes your story, that labour of love which demands so much of your creative effort, may – perhaps must - end up a very far cry from the finished product. But without putting your very life-blood into it there is not much chance of a worthwhile finished product at all.


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Philip Stott was born in England in 1943. He studied at Manchester University, where he obtained B.S. (with honours) and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering. He lectured at universities in Nigeria and South Africa and carried out research in the analysis of geometrically nonlinear structures. He shared the Henry Adams Award for outstanding research in 1969. While lecturing at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, he studied biology.

After leaving Wits he joined an engineering consulting firm. His ongoing interest in all aspects of science led to studies in mathematics and astronomy with the University of South Africa and, later, to four years of part-time research with the Applied Mathematics Department of the University of the Orange Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

After many years as a firm atheist, he was converted to Christianity in 1976. Following several years of studying the conflicting claims of secular science and Scripture, he actively entered the Creation/Evolution debate in 1989.

In 1992, he was invited to address a conference in Russia and since then has lectured, addressed conferences, and taken part in debates in eastern and western Europe, America, Canada, and southern Africa. Venues have included the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), a UNESCO International Conference on the Teaching of Physics, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Philip Stott is married to Margaret (born Lloyd). They have two children, Robert and Angela; and two grandchildren, Sean and Julie. They live in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

You can read more about Philip and his novel, Another World at http://nordskogpublishing.com/book-another-world.shtml

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for hosting Philip again today. I hope your readers have enjoyed his posts and will check out his book.

    Cheryl

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