Days to deadline 0
At the beginning of January this year, I submitted a first draft of my third novel. It was a pile of poo. I knew it was bad, but I hadn't realised quite how bad.I was too close to it, I think.There were some parts that were good, and the heart of the story was in there somewhere, but I'd lost sight of it a bit, gone off at a tangent, and got myself in a hell of a state with the structure. Had I been a new, unpublished novelist trying to get an agent, that manuscript would have been returned with a polite rejection.
After that meeting, even more ideas dropped into my head, so I came home and took the novel apart, sacked a few characters, combined a few others, and more or less started again. Here's a fun post I wrote at the time about getting rid of characters: The Home for Redundant Characters
I've been blogging for just over a year specifically about my experience of writing this novel. First post here. I called the blog The Writing Life, because initially, I'd only intended to write a series of ten weekly posts, partly to encourage myself by publicly committing to a certain amount of work, but also because I'm so frequently asked about my working day, especially the question "how many hours a day do you write?" If I'm editing, I have to be dragged away from my desk after eight or nine hours. However, if I'm drafting, I often only spend two or three hours a day actually writing. But that doesn't mean the rest of the day is spent reclining on a chaise longue drinking gin and tonic ( I wish!)
There are lots of other non-writing tasks, some of which are desk-based, others which involve being out and about, either for research, or for the purpose of talking with other writers – an essential part of the job, in my opinion. Also, we don't have normal weeks and weekends, so while it might seem that I have a lot of free time because I meet a friend for lunch on a Tuesday or have a day out on Thursday, that's only because I'll be here at my desk all day Saturday and Sunday.
Personally, I've always been fascinated by how other writers work, so I just wanted to open the door into my own daily life as a full-time writer. I had such a positive response to those first ten posts, I decided to continue with this blog, weekly or fortnightly, depending on what was going on. The response has continued to be incredibly positive, with frequent praise for the honesty and openness of the posts. Basically, I'm willing to admit that I find this job extremely difficult (though I love it and there is nothing I would rather do), and also that I am perfectly capable of writing rubbish and not recognising the fact until it's been pointed out.
Anyway, the point is, it's taken me seven months to complete this re-draft, but I have produced 94,000 words, around 75,000 of which are completely new. I have struggled enormously with this book – more than the first, I think, and definitely more than the second, but I've done it, and just before the weekend, I pressed the blue button!
I'm not kidding myself that it's anywhere near perfect, but I know it's much better than the first, or 'zero' draft. There will be more work to do, but it now seems like something that is actually doable. So I shall now bite my nails until I receive feedback from my agent and editor, and I'll blog about it when I do, good or bad. Well, good and bad - it won't be one or the other.
I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who has supported this blog over the last year. It's been wonderful to know that so many of you have found my experiences encouraging in your own work. thank you all so much too for your comments, tweets, and re-tweets.
I think the point I'm always trying to make is, writing a novel is difficult, and it's incredibly hard work. You will go wrong, you will write crap, you will write yourself down blind alleys, and you will create characters who don't work, (or who do work, but don't belong in the novel you're writing.) Unfortunately, all you can do is cut the bits that don't work and start again; there are no shortcuts. But if you're determined, even if you end up rewriting the entire novel, as I have, it will improve, and you'll get there in the end.
I'm hoping I won't have to do another complete rewrite, but if I need to, I will. And I'll blog about it. Thank you again for your support, lovely readers! See you again soon.
If you'd like to know more about me and my work, or if you'd like to attend one of my workshops, please visit my website, like my Facebook page or follow me on twitter