Friday, 27 February 2015

A Witch in Time

My writing career changed massively during the Nibfest14 write-a-thon last May. That week I wrote the first 3000 words of my novel A Witch in Time, and got the attention of literary agent Laetitia Rutherford from Watson, Little Ltd. Over the months that followed the end of the competition, I completed the first draft and also went on to secure representation from Laetitia Rutherford. My dream of getting an agent had finally been realised, after many years of writing and tentatively dipping my toe in the literary world.

Last week I finished  my 5th round of editing. The story has been through some massive changes, and even on the last day of editing I ended up bringing in a whole new character. It has really made me assess how I edit, and how editing like Shrek is like an onion! Layer upon layer, adding depth to a story and it's plot arc, character arc, every angle and world building.

I could go straight back to my book now and edit some more, but it has been sent to my agent now so I wont touch it until she gives me feedback. But I could go on tweaking and adding forever! So to help with that I've gone back to a blog piece I posted last year on editing...

How many drafts?

So you've written a novel, you might have proofread it or done the second draft, so how many should you do? When does editing and tweaking finally get to a stage where you can be happy to stop? Answer is, there is no right answer. Some people might only do three drafts, others ten or more. It will vary from story to story.

Something I've found that helped me focus was Larry Brooks advice on fiction writing, in particular...

The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling that define novelist heaven

1. Concept – the central idea or proposition from which you create a landscape upon which to tell the story; weak premise, weak story…

2. Character – checklist-driven criteria for developing backstory, arc, inner conflict and the essence of a hero’s quest…

3. Theme – the elusive meaning of your story and how it affects readers on multiple levels; in other words, why they’ll care…

4. Story architecture – a four-part story structure riddled with segments missions, milestones and standards that keep the story growing and moving…

5. Scene execution – if you can’t boil water you can’t cook up a buffet; this is the crafting of efficient, tense, visceral scenes and narrative…

6. Writing voice – the assemblage of words you summon as foot soldiers with the mission of carrying your structural strategy to victory.

For me the first draft is just getting the story down. Don't worry about mistakes, I don't even try to plan too much or think, I just write and write some more. It's like getting yourself a great big lump of clay and adding a bit, then a bit more.

Second draft, now you've got this big, lumpy piece of clay it needs to be moulded. Taking a notebook and pen I read through and make notes to begin with. This is where I find the plot holes and try to fill them. Character development happens here too, you can really start to get to grips with all these new characters that have waltzed into your life.

Third draft, now it's really starting to take shape. Those typos might still be slipping through the net, keep catching them and putting them right! Start getting some detailed editing in, take a closer look at sentences and work on it until it flows as well as you feel it can.

Fourth draft, there might still be the odd grammatical error or typo slipping through, keep setting it right. it might also be a good idea to have someone you trust give it a read through. I've found my local writing group an amazing influence and help. Like minded individuals might be just what you need at this point. Doubt creeps in at the best of times, even when you've had some success. There's a definite worry there that you might not achieve that level of success or recognition again.

Fifth draft, now surely we must be getting to the end? Yes, we could well be by now, but it really is down to how you feel or if you have an agent or editor what they think at this stage. Are you completely happy with what you have written? Could it be better? Is your cast list essential? Remember that unless the characters or events move your plot forward they don't need to be in there. Remember, at the end of the day, the suggestions offered to you are exactly that, suggestions that you can choose to use or not to use. Others may want to take your story in a different direction to the one you're taking it. Whilst others may notice something about your plot or spelling that you might have missed. A fresh pair of eyes is essential.

Write, read, edit, write, read, edit and you'll get there. Just stay focused and set yourself time to write every day/week and stick to it. It's okay to take breaks but make sure you set yourself targets/deadlines and work towards them, there's nothing more satisfying than achieving that goal!

Happy writing :)


  1. Great advice! I'm just getting to the editing process now with my first-draft lump, so I stumbled upon this post at the right time!

    1. Thank you and well done on getting that first-draft lump! That's a huge achievement :) Hope the editing advice is of use. I do find it varies slightly how many times I edit each book, I'm finding I've started to do far more planning before writing than I used to, that seems to help reduce the amount of edits needed :)