Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Edits Await!

I'm pleased and proud to announce I've now completed the first draft of my novel! You know, the one I started nearly a year ago, which made me give up writing womag stories and almost made me drop this blog? (Phew, that was close!)

My aim at the start of this year was to complete the first draft by the end of June (easy!) and the edits by the end of the year (we'll see...) This is the first time I've completed a novel although I've started a couple before. Got to 17,000 and 55,000 words with earlier attempts - this one's ended up at a respectable 81,500.

It's full of gaps and boring bits, but I hope there's a few gems and that the whole thing is salvageable.

Here's my Plan of Attack:

1. Copy all the sections into one big document. For some reason I wrote every section in a new Word document. Now they all need putting together in the right order.

2. Buy a lot of printer paper. I've found this at £20 for 5 reams on Amazon which I'd guess is about as cheap as it comes.

3. Print off and read novel, scribbling thoughts in a notebook as I go.

4. Edit 1: Make decision whether I should keep the story told in a chronological order, or play around with the structure and sequence of events. Will probably make use of techniques such as Sarah Duncan's cards-all-over-the-bed at this stage. Construct novel in the chosen sequence.

5. Edit 2: Starting from the outside in (see link to Sarah's blog above), first I'll tackle the major problems. Cut the boring bits, add some extra scenes (there are already a few in my head!) I'll also need to do a few bits of research - every now and again there are instructions to self written in capitals eg CHECK WHEN RAILWAY CAME TO WORTHING. I never wanted to break the flow of my writing, so didn't stop to check these facts as I went (1845, by the way).

6. Edit 3: The novel is written in several view points. Each section is a different view point, headed up with the POV character's name and the date. Most are third person except for one main character whose sections are in first person in a distinctive (I hope!) voice. So now I need to go through all sections for each character and ensure their voices are consistent and distinct from each other.

7. Edit 4: Add pretty details, setting, atmosphere, use all the senses etc. When writing short fiction, this would normally be my first edit.

8. Add the prologue and some appendices I have in mind - historical facts etc.

9. Edit 5: Check for readability. Tweak sentences, cut repetition etc.

10. Write synopsis and covering letter.

11. Edit 6: Final read through.

12. Edit synopsis and covering letter. Agonise over them. Wring hands and agonise some more.

13. Research online and in Writers' and Artists' Yearbook and decide on agents to submit to.

14. Post submissions. Drink large bottle of wine. Start new writing project in a futile attempt to forget all about this one.

I'll no doubt ask writing buddies for help with bits I'm not sure about, and will read bits out at my writing class if I'm feeling brave enough. I'll also read the best How To books around, including Nicola Morgan's Write to be Published which I've already begun.

So - wish me luck! Also for those of you who've written novels, does this sound like a reasonable plan? The novel at the moment feels like a big shapeless lump of unproven, unbaked dough. I need to turn it into a beautiful crusty sliced loaf, light but satisfying to eat.


Diane Fordham said...

Congratulations! Sounds like you got a plan - a good one too! Trust in yourself and it will all fall into place. Be proud that you have come this far too. Well done!

JO said...

It is a very reasonable plan. My experience is of making similar plans over and over - at the end of your first edit you might feel very differently, so you change the order of things, try again, go back to the number you first thought of, drink wine even though you haven't finished but you need it, try again in the middle of the night as you feel inspired by wine, realise it's rubbish in the morning so make a new plan . . .but through all that you hold on to the reality of having written a real novel, and aren't you brilliant to have got this far! Good luck.

womagwriter said...

Diane - thanks, am very proud!
Jo - don't worry. Wine has been a constant companion while I've written this draft and will no doubt continue to be so.

Bernadette said...

Fantastic! Well done!

Don't forget to celebrate this bit as well as plan for the edits. A completed first draft!!!!

As for the plan itself, can't help there I'm afraid, but I'm sure however you approach it you'll get there. Best of luck xx

Patsy said...

Well done for completing the first draft. Your plan sounds excellent except for one tiny point. I can assure you (from personal experience) you'll need the wine a lot earlier than that!

Frances Garrood said...

Congratulations! and I'm mightily impressed at your proposed (and punishing) schedule. Very good luck with it!

Susan Wright said...

Congratulations on completing the first draft, womag.

You've done brilliantly, and I'm so looking forward to reading the novel as I live in Worthing as you know.

Hope the next stages go as quickly and the novels published very soon!

Old Kitty said...

Womagwriter!! I'd start with the bottle of wine! LOL!! Oh but seriously GOOD LUCK!!! I have everything crossed for you and I wish you all the very very very very best with your novel!! This is going to be such an exciting year for you!! Yay!! Take care

Abigail said...

Congratulations - and ahead of your own deadline too! Love the look of your plan - very organised. Hope it goes well for you, and that soon you're posting your plan for publication.

Sarah said...

Congratulations on finishing your first draft. It must be an awesome feeling!

Don't know if this is helpful or not but Tesco own brand printer paper is £2.50 per 500 :)

Best of luck with your revisions.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Your plan sounds spot on, especially the agonising and wringing of hands.

Two things:

1) Make sure you have a back-up of the whole novel on a flash drive or portable hard drive etc, before you start (from painful experience).

2) Re-think the idea of having a prologue. Do you really need it? I'm not saying that you don't, but think carefully before writing one.

Here's a link to more on prologues:


Enjoy the next stage. It should be fun as well as hard work.


Captain Black said...

Congratulations, that's a great achievement. I agree with others that you need some earlier steps in your plan:

  (-2) Backup immediately. Use several methods/media.
  (-1) Celebrate!
  ( 0) Take a break from it for a while to let things percolate in your mind.

I'm no MS Word expert, but might it be worth considering making use of its master/sub documents facility? That way you can have the sections in manageable chunks but still "view" it as one big manuscript. Just a thought. I use that trick all the time with my work (though I use OpenOffice).

little lamb said...

Well done Kath, and put me down for a signed copy LOVE Maryx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many congratulations on finishing your novel! I think that's the worst part over, in that you actually have a full manuscript now and can have fun playing around with it. I also add in the relevant information (like dates) later.

Have you considered joining the RNA New Writers' Scheme for unpublished novelists - if it has a romantic theme at all? They give an excellent full reader's report, although you'd need to wait until January to join for next year.

I've also been compiling a list of publishers (here and overseas) who take unagented/unsolicited novels - if you have any problem getting an agent, or get fed up waiting! Just let me know if you want any suggestions.

Evelyn said...

Well done, and good luck with it.

Re No 9. I found reading out loud showed where my prose was unreadable, and revealed tiresome repetition of certain almost meaningless phrases.

Oh and I am so glad you didn't sstop this blog. It has been an informative inspiration to me.

Queenie said...

I always find I need a break of at least a month between finishing the first draft and starting the edits, so I can look at it with fresh eyes. I also do a read-aloud, usually when I've nearly finished (probably equivalent to your Edit 5) - it's amazing how much you pick up from reading aloud that you miss when reading silently. I also find it very helpful to get a critique of the whole thing from a trusted friend or mentor at some stage. Those are things which I know work for me, which doesn't mean they'd work for you, but I thought I'd mention them in case they're useful. Very best of luck!

Nan Sheppard said...

WOW! You are amazing. Wine will be flowing here on Friday afternoon if you'd like to start early!

Nan Sheppard said...

P.S. Queenie is right about fresh eyes... as an artist I used to put a piece aside for a day or two and NOT LOOK AT IT, and then when I did, I would suddenly see what it needed. Writing articles, I do the same thing.

Karen said...

Woo-hoo! Congratulations on finishing. Now for the hard part ...

I've been reading Sarah Duncan's blog for rewriting tips too - really helpful :o)

Anonymous said...

Congrats, womag!

I am in the opposite position, having written 5 (unpubbed) novels, last year i have switched to shorts and this year had some sales.

I think your plan sounds great. Keep us all posted with it.


Debs Carr said...

Congratulations to you!

This sounds like a great plan to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm a novice novelist but I followed advice (from another helpful blog?) and 'put it away in a drawer'. I could only manage 4 weeks of abstinence but in that time I found my subconscious had settled a lot of points and it was quite easy to get on with the edit having had the break. Good luck.

Amanda said...

Congratulations and good luck to you x

Tickle said...

Hi Many congrats on finishing the first draft. I think your plan for the next stage looks great.
One thing I do with multi VP in novels - after reading it as a whole - is to read say all 'Jane's' sections, then all the 'John' sections etc to check each individual 'story' hangs together. I don't know if you covered that in your plan.
I'm trying to write another novel while also subbing shorts. Tricky. But I'm determined to do it.
Reading your plan for editing I did think it would be useful to know how you planned your actual first draft. I'm always fascinated by that. One novel I wrote as the mood took me but it was very hard to piece together. Now I write a list of all the high points then when I start writing sketch in some more of the plan.
So please for you.
P.S. I also live near Worthing!

womagwriter said...

Thank you all for your cheers! Thanks too for all the invaluable advice.

I can assure you of a few things:

1. The whole thing was backed up to Google Docs before I even wrote this post.
2. The wine was opened (and consumed) the minute I told him indoors I'd got to the end. The wine will continue to flow. Nan - how about meeting in Riva for a glass or two one evening?

By the way to Worthing girls - I don't live in or near Worthing but the novel is set there for good reasons. I think I'll start a novel-related blog soon and will reveal all on there!

Reading aloud is a great idea - will do that at some stage near the end. And in Edit 3 I'll go through each POV character's sections in a chunk to ensure consistency.

Thanks for the link to the piece about prologues. However I think I do need one for this novel. I don't intend writing it yet though - want to get the bulk of the novel edited first.

Taking a break from it - ok, I will, for a couple of weeks. As soon as my paper order arrives I want to print it, then I'll read it when I've finished the novel I'm currently reading - a fat one.

Dolores Doolittle said...

Huge Congratulations, womag! and thanks for yet again taking the time to give detailed handy hints on the process.

Elaine Everest said...

Well done you! Good luck with the edits and I'll be in line to buy my copy. xx

Prue said...

Yeah! So exciting. I know how hard your next steps are - so stay at it.
Claire - am going to go to your Prologue link - I just began my 2nd novel with a Prologue - maybe that is wrong !
Rosemary,any chance you can share your list? I am ready to share my first novel with a publisher in UK and would greatly appreciate your research.(polarbear.prue@gmail.com)
Writers of the world unite - we are a blessed bunch :)

Dream it, then do it said...

I wish you all the best, womag.

Anonymous said...

Well done Womag! I wish you lots off good luck. You deserve it for all the support this blog has given to us all. LOL kath

eleanorpatrick said...

A sound plan - especially the wine bits! Why don't you look at Scrivener (v1 for Windows or 2 for Mac) because that means you can manipulate all the scenes and sections any which way and make notes in the margin, tag things etc etc. So so good for writers and so helpful when re organising and trying things out. You can compare versions too. Much easier than Word because it's dedicated to writers. And no, I am not on their payroll. Just a satisfied customer! Either way, the best of luck and skill as you do all this. Sounds fab.

HelenMHunt said...

It's been so lovely to hear about your work on this project. it sounds like you're making amazing progress.

Danny Rhodes said...

One piece of advice: Cut extraneous words. Aim for a 10% cull on the word count. Sounds drastic but it will sharpen the whole thing...

Sarah Duncan said...

Hey, well done on completing the first draft! And glad the blog has been helpful with your editing strategy.

One tip - try not to do the cards-all-over-the bed thing when your partner/cat are still in it!

And enjoy the process!

gaelikaa said...

Best of luck with your novel polishing Womagwriter. And then of course the publishing. I especially liked the bit about drinking a bottle of wine.

I don't think I'll ever have the nerve to do any more than I have with my first magnum opus. I proof read the first draft, made the corrections and it now likes in PDF/ebook format, in the computers and Kindles of my friends.