Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Flipping First Drafts

So, I have (finally, tonight, at 10:12pm) finished the first draft of Book the Second.

It's a snip at 57,000 words, excluding footnotes and references and acknowledgements and all the grown up caboodle. It's not huge, not by any means. But it's still over what the commissioning editor asked for- so a good chunk is going to have to go.

I cannot wait to attack it, pull it to bits, and rebuild it. I can already feel things wrong with it that are burning and itching in my brain, like little fleas determined to irritate me and suck out my writing flow. The last chapter was a struggle and a half as the editing fleas grew and swelled, becoming louder and more insistent.

The last time I finished something like this it was the first draft of my PhD, and there were no such issues. I was smug, happy and confident. My lovely supervisor would tell me where I had gone wrong and where to fix it, but it was done. To be fair, that was at least 20,000 words longer, so maybe I'd gone further into the dark place where your own work is the only thing you see. I'm hoping that the fact I can tell it needs editing, and major editing at that, is a sign that maybe I've grown up a bit since then. That I can even tell what those edits should be, that I can see where I want to shift and change and delete and grow, is giving me a sliver of hope for the future of the volume.

This must be what being a grown up feels like.

BUT wait, stop. Space. The essential ingredient, not the final frontier. I will not open any of the individual chapter word documents until December. I will not. I will let them lie fallow, turn my face to other ideas (of which more soon). Edit too fast, and edit too floppily.

Then, what? My usual plan of attack is print the whole thing out and attack it- see where it flows and where it sticks. Make a list of the instinctive problems, make a list of repetitive bits. Highlight words in paragraphs that you use too much (past culprits include "beautiful" "materials" and "striking." Moi?). Check your facts, then check them again. Same goes for references.

Then, to the victims. If you want to be a reader, let me know. You might get off lightly, with a chapter. You might be the poor schmuck who asks for the whole thing and receives it in the dark of a January night.

But, before your impending doom, any magical tips to turn a first draft into a second draft?