Sunday, 26 August 2012

Eight Drafts

Some years ago, I thought all I had to do to write a book was...well, write it. There would be a few typos to correct, of course, and a few awkward sentences to improve on but basically, that was it. Apparently, thousands of other people had the same idea, and wrote their books.

Learning about creative writing suggested there would have to be a bit more rewriting than I had supposed. Clich├ęs to root out, every sentence has to make sense and be clear to the reader, who sadly, wasn't psychic. Then there was grammar, spelling, formatting, pace, descriptions, dialogue, hooks, scenes and chapters to think about. 

So I took my first draft of Borrowed Time, and I substantially redrafted it. I changed the ending, changed the relationship between the characters, worried about point of view and tense and perspective and pace.

Realising I was relying on a  lot of back-story for the research, I wrote a historical strand and threaded it into the third draft. I realised at this point that that was what I was doing, writing a new draft. 

Pace was still a problem, and when an agent came into the process, she suggested changes that would help that. The fourth draft was rewritten to be more for an adult audience, more tense, more at stake for the protagonists, more secrets to be revealed.

Draft five, six, seven and eight were less work each time, but still substantially changed the book. Just before it was sent to editors, it was still having chapters moved about, and had had a thousand word or punctuation edits. One thousand. Many were adverbs being ruthlessly trimmed. Many were debates about hyphenated words, consistency of capitalising words or spelling of names. 

Many people self-publish, and I don't have a problem with it. But please, please, give your book the same care and effort you would for a mainstream publisher. If I pay for a self-published book, I expect no less. Indeed, I may be paying a similar amount. I recently bought an e-book by another blogger. I couldn't read it. The first time you hit something that jars, you lose the thread. By the third one - on page one - I knew I couldn't read it for pleasure. Edit until you can't see the problems, then hand it to someone who will.

Novels aren't written, they are redrafted, rewritten, polished and edited. And so they should be - our characters and stories deserve nothing less.

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