Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Life after THE END

So, you type those two magic words, THE END, hit save and close the file. You’ve officially written a novel. Now what??

Once the first draft is finished, you have three options. One: Self-publish or submit the finished file to publishers exactly as it is, typos and all (I cannot think of any situation where this is a good idea). Two: Close the file, pretend it never existed and ignore it for all eternity. Or three, turn back to page one and start editing. This is where I found myself back in December of last year, having written a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’ve spent the intervening time rewriting, editing, shaping and *deep breath* deleting.

Throughout the last stages of writing my first draft, I was really starting to look forward to the editing part. I’m an editor by trade, so surely editing my own book would be easy. I wish! I have had so much fun editing and rewriting, but easy isn’t the word I would use.

NaNoWriMo is a great writing program, and I love taking part (2011 was my third year), but when I looked back at what I’d written, I could see all the places where my novel read like it had been written in a month. There were vast areas of repetition, particularly within internal monologues, long periods of stasis and then huge leaps in characterisation (usually after I’d had a late-night brain-wave into a character’s development), and the same grammatical tricks and vocabulary used over and over again.

A second draft ironed out these problems and left me with what I’d like to think a first draft might look like if I spent longer than a month writing it. More importantly, I now know an awful lot more about my bad-writerly habits, which I’m hoping will make my next first draft a lot cleaner than the last. So my advice to anyone who’s just finished a first draft is edit, edit, edit.  And then once you’re happy with your second, third, fourth or even fifth draft, it’s time for the scary part.

Next up, beta readers and feedback. Who to ask, what to send, and what to do with positive and negative comments…

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