My experience is limited, but so far, writing each first draft has been different. The first draft of Book One, Tatya's Return, came out in a flood. Written during the 2013 nanowrimo it emerged on to the page with noticeably greater ease than the earlier battle with my debut novel. The first draft of Book Two has been trickier; half-way between a vigorous love making session and a bout in the boxing ring, where I finished up exhilarated and exhausted. Editing will be the re-match, and despite the effort involved in endlessly pressing Ctrl+F, Ctrl+V, I’m eager to start.
When revising, I use a method similar to triage. Like a doctor with a patient, I tackle the most drastic tasks first, before turning my attention to the smaller, if more painstakingly labour intensive, but equally necessary jobs needed to achieve good health.
My first step is a read through, so I print out a hard copy. Next, red highlighter in hand, alert and poised to strike, I’ll go through the manuscript making notes. These could refer to plot, dialogue, characters, action, or setting. For example, I’ve already decided to move the inciting incident forward. This is bound to have a knock-on effect, and require re-jigging of subsequent sections – but that’s part of the course. When I’m finished, even an Alan Turing would have trouble decoding the massacred pages, and Jackson Pollock would be proud of me.
This stage complete, back to the laptop to make these changes, then on to the grammar/spelling/style edit for which I use Pro Writing Aid. One thing I’ve invested in during this breather is an upgrade from the free version of this software program to the premium edition. I spent a chunk of my break trying this out on my 2012 nano, and couldn’t believe how much easier the process was, and how much more quickly I worked through the bruising list of corrections.
A second read through – aloud and taking it slow while paying as much attention as I can muster, correcting as I work, in spite of which something always slips through. When I’m confident the edition I have is acceptable for others, I send it off to my beta-readers, which creates another breathing space.
This rhythm of intense engagement, followed by a putting aside, allows a fresh perspective, and curbs the tendency to develop the wood for the trees syndrome. How long you rest your work depends on the individual, but Stephen King in his On Writing suggests a minimum of six weeks. And this is how long I’ve taken, while still giving myself a decent chance of meeting my deadline of publishing in October.
If this creates the impression of organized efficiency, that’s wonderful, but the actuality will be fairly chaotic, because I’m also re-decorating the living room. This includes sanding and re-painting book cases and tables, plus periodic attempts at clearing the garden to create a path so I can foray out for supplies!
A recent twitter conversation between writers focussed on the topic of so long as I’m writing, everything is okay. Now while this may not be a universal truth, it’s something I wholeheartedly endorse at this point in my life. I've become that bouncy enthusiastic kid in the back seat of the car who’s forever asking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Well, the answer is yes, and I can’t wait to start!
sun shining through glass
glitters over surfaces -
Two editing software programs - both with free online editions.
I’d love it if you checked out either of my novels, or popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories ... just click on the links to the right.
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.