I committed 6 weeks to following an on-line course on self-editing the first draft of my novel. I enjoyed it very much and learned a great deal, and when I finished I drew up a plan for the editing. You can read about my plan here. It involves six stages, each a focus for roughly a month on one aspect of the course. Phase one was structure and plot. Phase 2 is characters.
It’s time to review how it’s going.
Here are the excuses, aka reasons
- All the things I had put to one side so that I could complete the course have claimed my attention since I finished.
- I have several writing projects –the blog, a co-authored book, writing groups – and these have also claimed my attention.
- I have had other time-consuming activities such as joining a panel at WOW The Truth about Ageing and the City Lit meet the authors event.
- All the other time-consuming activities such as walking, grandparenting, seeing friends, going to the opera, a day at the spa, all these have stolen away the days.
- Spring means that the desire to spend time in the garden has overwhelmed me, until …
- … I got this rotten cough and cold.
So it’s not surprising that my progress has not been as I hoped and envisaged.
What I have done
- I have decided on a new structure for the novel, which involves re-ordering half of the chapters, adding a new one and moving some scenes around. Not much re-writing there, but it feels like an important decision as well as the right one and I looked at it carefully before the physical task of renumbering consumed me.
- I have read lots of posts on writer Emma Darwin’s excellent blog: This Itch of Writing. I especially liked the one about the exercise where you go through the plot looking at fortunately/unfortunately. This reveals where the plot is engaging and moving forward. For example: ‘Fortunately Lorna’s niece came to stay. Unfortunately the nosey girl opened the box of letters.’
- Emma Darwin recommends Into the Woods by John Yorke (Penguin), about story telling. It’s an interesting book about structure, and what keeps a story moving and why we tell stories this way. That’s stories of all kinds: novels, plays, tv series, films etc.
- I’ve been reading novels recommended during the course to help me look at structure and also psychic distance. I need to grapple with both of these during my revision.
- I’m learning that revision means asking questions, taking a longer view and lots of thinking and considering. At this moment, not so much rewriting. I am predicting that this will change as I move through The Great Plan.
- And now I’ve started on the second phase, revising aspects of the characters. I have already redrafted the arrival of the second main character. It’s not tight enough yet, doesn’t quite say enough about her yet, but I’ll get some feedback from a writing group this weekend.
Well I’m being systematic, which may not be a good thing. But at least I have a plan and I am following it. When I first tried to revise my first draft I had no real clue what to do. Now I feel a little more in charge. Will it last? Oh I do hope it will last.
Do you have any recommendations for books about revising a first draft?
To ensure you are notified of future blogposts please subscribe to email notifications by entering your email address in the box.