THE WRITING LIFE – hurrah! Great feedback on the zero draft!

I haven’t blogged since I finished the ‘zero draft’ of my 4th novel at the end of October because everything went a bit crazy (in a good way). Clare, my lovely editor at Simon & Schuster who I’ve worked with since 2012 told me she was leaving to go to Orion.  I was pleased to hear she was making such an exciting career move, but obviously gutted to lose her as an editor. Anyway, when she knew I’d finished this draft, she asked if there was any possibility it might be ready for her to read before she left Simon & Schuster – in five weeks!

My plan had been to do a leisurely re-draft over three or four months. After all, the zero draft was full of exposition, the voice was inconsistent, there were countless repetitions, slow scenes, scenes with no action etc. Could I possibly get this anywhere near decent shape in just five weeks? Clare had liked the original synopsis, so I really wanted her to see it, especially as it took me so long to write my third novel, What She Lost – out in March but now available for pre-order…
Out 9th of March – just over 11 weeks to go…
So I had one hell of a deadline! I set to work…

Fortunately, I had a five-day retreat booked where I’d planned to ‘make a start’ on the redraft. I threw myself into it and worked 9-10 hours most days. One night, I was so fired up and excited that, having made myself stop work at 9:30, I went to bed at 11, couldn’t sleep and ended up getting up and working again until just after one in the morning. 

I worked my arse off! I always get a lot done when I’m on a retreat, but this time, the amount of work I got through was astonishing. Partly because of the deadline, but also because I had enjoyed writing the zero draft (the very rough, pre-first draft) so much that I was bursting with excitement and couldn’t wait to start on the next draft, the one I would show to my editor, albeit a much earlier version than I would usually share.

For me, redrafting is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing a novel, and this time, it feels like I’ve written the whole thing on a high. The most brilliantly wonderful thing is, she loved it! She has loved my books before, but they’ve usually been through at least one more draft and are a lot more polished by the time she sees them. So you can imagine how thrilled I am, especially as I’ve actually enjoyed this early part of the process for a change.

Obviously there’s still work to do, and I’m looking forward to hearing my new editor’s thoughts towards the end of January, and to getting started on the next draft.

In the meantime, I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to repeat what has been such an uncharacteristically enjoyable experience. Writing a detailed synopsis helped enormously, but I found it hard. It took me weeks! But writing the synopsis turned out to be a microcosm of writing a novel, with all the getting stuck, thinking the story won’t work, putting into much back story – at one point, I started to feel pleased with myself when I realised I’d written a page and a half, but then I realised that it was all back story! So I drew a line under that and started again. But then one paragraph began to suggest the next, and slowly, the story started to develop.

I’ll definitely try this again. It’s true that some stories may not work, but probably better to find that out after four or five weeks working on a synopsis than after four or five months (or longer) working on a novel, which is what I did earlier this year.

I’m now turning around ideas in my head for book five. Who knew how hard it would be to make up stories? 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

If you’d like to know more about me and my work, or if you’d like to sign up a ‘writing a novel’ workshop, please visit my website, or say hello on Facebook or Twitter

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