Saturday, 12 January 2013

When it's almost done

I'm getting that excited kind of feeling again.

I've almost finished a first draft of my third Neville Lansdowne adventure.

I can't quite believe I've done it so quickly. Barely three months ago, while I was frantically working to get Neville volume 2 released, volume 3 was little more than a throwaway line and a couple of rough ideas for characters. Now, I've actually got to the point where I only have one chapter to go. And if I'm able to make a bit of time this weekend, I should be able to knock that one over.

And then comes the scary bit.

Writing a first draft is fun. I tend to relax a bit and just let the ideas flow. Sure, I do try to take a bit of care as I write. I like to make sure my spelling and grammar are as sound as they can be from an early stage. But generally, I'm not so over-concerned. The most important thing is to just keep the ideas coming, and keep the story moving forward, sometimes with a rough plan in mind, but often with no idea what will happen next.

Once it comes to rewrite time, that's when it gets serious. I've got the rough outline of a story - bits of it are good but bits still need a lot of work. Characters have been developed as I went along, so in early chapters, they're only half formed - this means I have to go back and make sure these characters emerged fully-formed right from the beginning.

The whole process is a bit like taking a messy room and cleaning it up, making sure everything you need is in the right place, and throwing out all those things you don't need.

But the really scary thing is knowing that by the end of the process, I have to take something that is good in bits and not so good in other bits, and make it good all over. Can I do it? Can I get the ideas I have in my head out onto the paper? Is the basic story idea strong enough? And can I find answers to all those questions I posed while writing that first draft, to which the answer at the time was "I'll figure it out later"?

I guess I'll see how I go. Once a first draft is done, I find the best thing is to leave it for at least a month, and then come back to it with fresh eyes.

In the meantime, I've got a more serious dilemma on my hands. I've still got no idea what this new Neville story is going to be called.


  1. I’m pleased for you. I don’t really get the whole drafts thing. I suppose if it wrote quicker and was more interested in telling a story then I might but when I get to the end of a book then it’s finished apart from the usual editing / proofreading. That said I do enjoy that part of the job. It’s not rewriting—the story never changes—but I like smartening up the text. I’ve been working on my next book for the last couple of months—it’s a collection of short stories called Making Sense—and I’ve literally reread the book fifteen times, each time smoothing out the text and then going back to the start. Once I can read it from beginning to end and not want to change anything then I’m done. Carrie’s back in the States for the next couple of weeks and I’d like to have it ready for her to do her edits when she comes back.

    Titles I’ve never had a real problem with. That said although the title of my first book is perfect for the book—Living with the Truth—I’m not entirely convinced that from a marketing point of view it was the best choice because it sounds a bit like a self-help book. I’m sure you’ve looked up all the synonyms for doodling and scribbling already so you’ll see your choices are very limited in that direction. As long as the cover design uses the same font and colours I wouldn’t worry too much about sticking with a similar-sounding title. Or broaden the scope—Fiddling, perhaps?

    1. Hi Jim,

      Happy new year.

      Redrafting is very important to me - I find the story and characters get clearer as I write, which means that I need to go back and fix things I wrote earlier, when I didn't know as much about either.

      But that's the great thing about writing - we all have our own styles.

  2. Hi Jonathan,

    Interesting to hear what you're up to.

    This is more a query than a comment. I'm hoping you could please review the transcript of the interview we did for my PhD some time ago (it's taken a little while to find you).

    I'd really appreciate it if you could please email me at Deakin (juliana.ryan) to let me know where I could send the transcript.

    Thanks in anticipation and all the best with the next draft and title.