I’ve been caught up in a writing whirlwind for the last 6 months – writing, revising and just this week doing a copyedit on my soon to be released second novel, Essie’s Way. It’s been one of the busiest, high-pressured times in my life but I know it will all be worth it when I hold that first copy in my hand. Over the next couple of months I’ll be writing a few posts to fill you in on the background of the novel and giving you some sneak peeks at the story.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt over the last twelve months is to keep on writing. I’ve always been the type of writer who works fairly intensely for a period of time and then has a few weeks off. When Blackwattle Lake, my debut novel was published last December, I was so excited I took not just weeks but months off so when I caught up with my lovely publisher, Vanessa, sometime in February and she told me Hachette would like to publish a second novel – soon – I almost choked.
Apart from a vague outline for a sequel to Blackwattle all I had was 20,000 very rough words about two characters – an older woman and a younger one – with no plot and no notion of how the two characters were even connected. it’s truly amazing what a little – or a LOT – of pressure can do. I went home and came up with a synopsis that weekend which was accepted within a week and a deadline of just over 4 months to get the novel written.
The next few months I wrote virtually every day, churning out somewhere between 1,000 words on slower days, around 3,000 on good days and up to 5,000 on extraordinary days. Resisting the urge to revise as I went, I had the first draft done within a couple of months and then launched straight into the revision. Thankfully I found the same thing I had a couple of years before when I completed Nanowrimo – writing fast forces you to keep moving the story forward, developing the plot.
While there were obviously some much-needed changes to be made in the revision process, along with extra character development, the plot itself remained largely the same. Then it was off to the publisher who returned it within two weeks for a structural edit. This stage was all about refining the characters and their motivations, changing a few of the plot points that weren’t quite working and making sure that the sentences, paragraphs and chapters flowed. This took another (very busy!) three weeks or so before I once again submitted it to my editor.
Two weeks later 350 pages arrived in a package on my doorstep ready for the copyedit. This last stage was an extremely intense, stressful period. Acutely aware that this was pretty much my last chance to completely polish the manuscript I worked my way through it word by word, weighing up the editor’s comments and suggestions, making changes where I agreed (which was most of the time) and agonising when I didn’t. While it’s crucial to have the expert advice of a professional editor to make sure your novel is as good as it can be, the bottom line is that you have to be true to your vision of the story and what you’re trying to achieve. The editing process is definitely one of taking feedback on board and deciding what works for you – and the reader – and what doesn’t. Ultimately it’s all about creating a story that keeps the reader wanting more.
By the time I got to the end of the copyedit yesterday, (having spent three consecutive days in my pyjamas) I was well and truly ready to pop those pages back in the envelope and kiss them goodbye. At least for the time being – until the “first pages” are sent to me for a final proofread. I’m looking forward to seeing this (hopefully!) final version, free from the editor’s comments and my own scribbled changes, which should be in a couple of weeks time.
I’ll be even happier to see those pages inside the cover which I’ll be posting here on the blog in the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime I’ll be dressing a lot earlier in the day and tidying up my train-wreck of a house. I’m also going to spend more time with my family, catch up with friends, attack my to-be-red pile, listen to music, do some exercise and work on my website.
Oh, and I’ll also be pondering ideas for my next novel. While fast and furious has its advantages I wouldn’t mind taking it just a little easier the next time around.