The Value of Abandoned Books and Re-writing

Published on

Wellington writer and finalist in the national book awards, David Coventry, says it took him a long time to figure out how to write, even though he traces his love of words back to his teenage years.

Seen here recently talking to Anna Taylor’s mixed genre class he says, "As a teenager I loved how two words on the page talked to each other but it wasn’t until I turned 40 that I began to dedicate time to the craft."

That love of words is evident in his debut novel, praised for its poetic beauty and now a finalist in this year’s national Ockham book awards.

The Invisible Mile centres round the joint Australian and New Zealand team in the 1928 Tour de France. "I wanted to write about memory and how memory is affected and functions after something like the First World War. It’s also about the interplay between sport and religion—that really interests me."

David says it was humbling to have his debut novel as a finalist in the book awards and picked up by Picador in the UK.

But this isn’t his first book. For his MA thesis at Victoria University he wrote a novel and then spent two years afterwards re-writing it.

"I’m a prolific writer but I’ve learnt that I have to spend more time editing than writing. I read and re-write passages maybe 30 times. Although I abandoned that first novel to begin writing The Invisible Mile I can’t emphasize how important that first book was. I learned, from within its walls, how to write the next book. It was like writing my own training manual.

"It’s hard work — I wish it was simple. You have to let go of some of your best prose if it doesn’t fit the story — but that’s good. You’ve got to write to please yourself as a reader, not you as a writer."