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Novel Writing – An Update

"Write without fear - edit without mercy." - abccopywriting.com

Some books. Yesterday.
Some books. Yesterday.

Right now I’m drafting the novel I wrote in the summer of 2015. I’ve posted about this project elsewhere on this site ( a long time ago!), but for now I wanted to update you on my drafting progress.

And I have to say that it’s going rather well.

After putting the first draft away for nearly a year (and a failed submission attempt to Gollancz in early 2016 – more on that perhaps another day), I’ve come back to it with fresh eyes.

That awkward first chapter

The whole first chapter has been ripped out and I’ve started again. In my opinion there was too much in the way of scene setting.

Instead I’ve changed focus, bringing in my lead character immediately. This establishes the story without waffling on about why the Eden (that’s the ship) is in space.

From a narrative perspective it is much better, getting into the story as quickly as possible. I think when I first wrote that opening it was more so I could get a feel for the world I had created more than anything else.

So, in the interests of trying to make sure the reader is entertained (and I include myself in that category), that section will be completely different to the first draft.

The Editing Process

As of this moment I’m also making slow progress on editing the rest of the book. I’ve read through the first draft and there are characters that don’t need to be there. Plus, I’ve written scenes that either don’t make sense or don’t contribute to the plot, or where character motivations aren’t as clear as they need to be. A good start. This links to my piece about first drafts. I know full well that this one was not appropriate for people to see.

My editing process in this instance is relatively simple. I’ve read through each of the chapters and noted down the characters in the scene, the purpose of the scene, and highlighted any inconsistencies – these could be plot, characterisation or anything in the middle.

Then I spent a bit of time away from the draft, jotting down my first thoughts on how to resolve the issues I’d found. For example, I had introduced a highly religious group whose opinions were at odds with the rest of the ship.

Then I introduced another group who would be responsible for widespread damage later on (no spoilers!). On review, iit made sense to combine those two groups into one. It’s a little cliche that the religious group have a background of terrorism, but hopefully I balance that out with a few of the other characters in their group who are not so inclined.

The hurry towards the finishing line

Then there is the final act of the book which, again, I’m not going to spoil for you. In general terms I’m happy with the last couple of chapters, but the climactic moment was lacking. It seemed that the plot was driving the characters rather than the other way around.

It’s also entirely possible that I was hurrying towards the finishing line on the first draft and not giving the narrative the attention it deserved. But then, this is the first full length novel I’ve ever written, so it seemed appropriate to at least finish the draft.

In any case, it was another change that I needed to make. It took quite a while to think up a suitable finale, but I think I got there in the end.

There’s opportunity for strong character moments and a much more interesting action element to it. Both of these things are, arguably, missing in the first draft.

At least I have this first draft as a reference point. For my first attempt at a novel I don’t think it’s that bad on the whole. True, there are some admittedly awkward problems to resolve, but that’s common across most authors I think.

So, now I have to just finish my second draft. Then it’s time to get the story out to beta readers before a final polish. Then I can start thinking about the equally scary prospect of releasing the book into the wild. But of course, if anything of interest happens before then you’ll be the first to know.

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