Thursday, May 07, 2009

The best part about novel writing

For me the best part about novel writing is the first draft when my ideas are not fully formed and I have no idea which way the plot is going. It's a bit like playing a game of blind man's buff or murder in the dark. I don't yet know my way or who the bad guy is.

I like to surprise myself as I go along because I believe if I have no element of surprise then neither will my readers. So it's not unusual for me, not to have worked out until over half way through the book, who the murderer is or what the black moment might be.

As I race towards the finishing line of getting the first draft down I get a rush of adrenaline and when I finally write 'The End' a surge of relief. It's over. At least for now. It's time to allow the casserole to steep in its own juices for a while. So I put the 'baby' to bed.

A couple of weeks later I get the 'baby' out of its cot and it's back to work for revision and edits. This is the worst part of all. I probably end up with three or four drafts. I look for flaws in the plot like loose ends that haven't been tied up. Isn't it awful to read a book where someone is left locked in the loo or you wander what happened to the dog?

I spell check and look for grammar and punctuation errors. I take out extraneous words [as much as possible.] I use 'that' a lot and 'just', the majority of those have to go. There is an easy solution of course, to perform a word search which will highlight any words I wish to delete.

I move paragraphs around.

I try cutting as much as I possibly can. If it's not vital to the plot then it's out! If a character isn't doing anything, then off they go. Sometimes a character can double duty. For example, perhaps the hero can also be the office boss or the heroine's friend her aerobics teacher.

Less is always more.

When all the edits are complete I submit the package which usually consists of the first three chapters, a synopsis and a cover letter. If I'm fortunate that the publisher wants to see the entire novel, then off it goes.

If it's accepted it's back to editing again as per my editor's/publisher's requirements.

This all takes time and to be honest the whole process can take longer than writing the first draft. It is a wonderful feeling though when the galleys go off for the last time and I'm at that moment of waiting to give birth.

I always enjoy discussing the cover art. I have been fortunate so far that my publishers have allowed me to have a say in this. I tell them my vision for the cover and they come back with a picture, sometimes it needs tweaking but more often than not it's just what I wanted.

Edits are a good thing though. My Samhain editor ended up getting me to cut 4000 words of text! But I have to say that it made my writing tighter and the book was a much better read because of it.

So far I have given birth to 'four babies'. It's time to get broody again....

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