On completing a first draft

ticker tape

licensed under Creative Commons 2.0: source http://www.flickr.com/photos/iluvgadgets/

If you are passing Suffolk at any point today, you may hear the odd scream of joy or bought of hysterical laughter. After what seems like years (but has only been three months), the first draft of Genesis Redux – The Transcendence Trilogy Part 3, is complete.

I don’t know about you, but for me, writing a first draft us a little like taking exams or buying a house – it’s only once you’ve finished that you realise just how much stress you’ve been under. This has been especially true of Genesis Redux.

With Second Chance I went into the process blind. The challenge was to write a book. The first draft was fun because I placed absolutely no expectations on myself. It was only after a number of people read it and told me it was good, that the pressure mounted to get it into a good enough shape to publish.

Absent Souls was different again. This time I had some pressure because Second Chance had been so well received, but at the same time I felt comfortable with my writing process. Whereas Second Chance was a journey into the unknown, Absent Souls was a trip with old friends, the sort where you get to know each other at a far deeper level than before. By this point I had an idea where the series was going, but not necessarily how it got there, so I had the freedom to play around a little and see what happened. The good news is that so far fans of the series have loved the journey too.

With Genesis Redux, however, there has been pressure from the start. It’s the final part in the series, and although each book can be read (and enjoyed) as a standalone novel, it was important that I brought all the major plot lines to a satisfactory conclusion. This has proven to be difficult. It has taken a while for me to find a way to reach an ending that stays true to the characters without feeling contrived. I’ve probably discarded more scenes in this first draft than I ever have before, because I knew I was putting plot before characterisation, forcing my characters to do things that didn’t come naturally.

At the same time, I needed to have the draft finished by the end of this month for personal reasons, and only a few weeks back this looked unachievable. However, I’ve ended up with a completed first draft with which I’m mostly happy (which with first drafts, is a good space to be in).

Of course, any of you who have written a book know that ‘completed’ as far as first drafts is concerned is a misnomer. There are so many things left to do. I have locations I need to change and expand upon, I have plot threads I need to backtrack into earlier parts of the novel and I have themes that emerged towards the end of the novel that need to be tweaked and highlighted in earlier scenes. I also have to follow character timelines to ensure they haven’t miraculously recovered from injuries which happened only moments – but a few chapters – earlier, or manic mood swings with no apparent cause. There are motivations to assess and monitor, behaviours too. And of course there is the all important pacing to consider. And after all that there’s polishing, lots and lots of polishing.

Yet despite all this, editing is the process I love the best. While I enjoy the freedom of the first draft, I’m not the most creative person when faced with a blank page. I’m much better adapting something that already exists. I find I generate more ideas during the edit than I do while writing the first draft. The biggest challenge is to know which ones to include and which to ignore.

I can’t wait to start the editing process, but for it to be effective waiting is what I’ll be doing. I’ve learnt through experience I need to leave my draft at least a month, preferably six weeks, so when I read it back it feels like reading another’s writing, and that’s when I edit the best. So in the mean time I get to work on something new. For the first time in nearly three years I get to think of something other than the Transcendence Trilogy universe. I’m quite looking forward to it. But before that, I’m going to celebrate.

What about you? What’s your favourite part of the writing process? Are you like me and love the edit, or do you enjoy the freeform creativity of the first draft? Are you happy to leave a draft knowing there is work still left to be done, or do you have to correct all plot points before you’re ready to move on? I’d love to hear from you.

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Ten Books For Readers Who Like Fantasy

While I write science fiction, I’m a great lover of the fantasy genre and loved the fact that I’ve read most of the books on this list. What about you? What are your favourite fantasy books? Either post here or go through to the original post to join in with the fun.

Read & Survive

It’s Tuesday again 🙂 TTT is meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Ten Books For Readers Who Like _______
I chose fantasy because it has always been and will probably always be my favorite genre. And my list has book series mostly…sorry for that! The books in this list are in no particular order.

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1. Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling
2. Doomspell trilogy by Cliff McNish
Something I call “pure fantasy”. How magic and witchcraft works in Doomspell books is so deeply thought over, element of magic is better than in Potter and that’s why you should read this.
3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
All my childhood I wanted to have daemon.  I was obsessed with them for a long time. His Dark Materials has really good writing, parallel universes, beautiful written characters. You’ll like this if you liked Harry Potter…

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My writing process in a picture

Ice sculpture

Image used under creative commons license. Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lynsey_wells83/

I recently read a great post on the The Diaries of James Purcell blog, where he’d put up a picture of his bookshelves and mentioned how representative they were of his thinking process, saying “the haphazard way the shelfs are stacked with bits shoved into any odd gap is a perfect example of how I think, plan and access my thoughts when writing.”

This got me thinking, because I often use visual metaphors to explain my writing process. When I first started writing I saw myself as a sculptor, with the block of stone (or ice in the case above) representing the initial blank page. My first draft would be where I’d make the first cuts, to uncover the rough approximation of the shape of the story, but in a way that still needed plenty of work. Then, with ever more intricate tools I’d edit my manuscript down, smoothing the edges, teasing out the details, until I ended up with a polished piece of work.

Clay Sculpture

Image source: thisisruben.com

However, my writing process has changed since I first started. Whereas the first draft of Second Chance fitted this analogy well, starting at 120,000 words before being edited down to 84,000, the word count on Absent Souls (and I expect Genesis Redux) started lower, went higher, before being refined back down again.

In this case, while I still see myself as a story sculptor, I now believe my process is more like creating a wire-frame clay sculpture. The frame is my outline – a series of  small paragraphs, or even just a couple of lines of description, to convey what happens in every scene of the book. I then write my first draft, fleshing out this brief description, providing the bulk of the words but still being quite sparse in places (yes, even for me), with minimal description and scene setting. Once complete, I work on my second draft, adding in further detail where required and developing the areas where more detail is needed. This process allows me to play with the pacing of the book and fully explore and accentuate the themes that have arisen in the first draft. Further edits then trim and smooth prose until I reach the finished version.

So, what about you? What’s the image that best represents your writing process? I’m a great believer that we all have our own idiosyncrasies when it comes to how we write, so I’d love to understand what image best sums up yours.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

#Shelfie for world book day

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It’s world book day, and following on from the example of Suzie, from the Suzie81 Speaks blog, I thought I’d share with you a ‘shelfie’ to celebrate. This one is a bit of a departure from my normal shelfie, as it’s all non-fiction, covering art. music, history and mathematics, along with a copy of National Geographic from the month I was born.

So how about you? Why don’t you share a ‘shelfie’ to celebrate world book day and tell us a little bit about it. Feel free to do a pingback here on my blog, or on the original at Suzy81 Speaks.

Let’s be honest: Negative Reviews

This is a great post, written from a reviewer’s perspective, on why more reviewers should leave negative as well as positive reviews. It’s a great companion piece to my blog thanking all reviewers, and I couldn’t agree with it more.

Author Unpublished

writing-1024x692Negative reviews are a bit of a hot-button topic for book reviewers. The topic tends to be polarizing in the community, and can be a bit complex if you haven’t been faced with the decision to leave a negative review before. Though every reviewer is different, and there’s no real wrong answer when it comes to leaving reviews (after all, reviews are only opinions when you get right down to it), I’d like to take a minute to shine a light on the matter.

For the most part, there seem to be two sides of the issue (though again, things are a bit more complex than that). There are those reviewers who leave negative reviews, and those that don’t. Though there can be any number of reasons for a reviewer to avoid posting negative reviews, the most common seems to come down to this: As reviewers, we feel bad leaving…

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