Tag Archives: Editing

Edits and Drafts

If you look around for writing advice (which this is not) you will immediately find a great many quotes, some ascribed to writers I admire, saying that the first draft of anything you write is garbage and should be thrown away almost entirely. People will tell you this (as far as I can tell) about any kind of writing; certainly I got told it about academic writing just as I frequently see it said about fiction. It always fuels my Impostor Syndrome a little because I do not do that, and have never done that.

I’m not claiming that I write things perfect the first time – far from it! I do quite a bit of rewriting and throwing away of bits and pieces and part of the reason I’m writing about this today is that I’m presently doing revisions of Bonhomme Sept-Heures to hopefully have it ready before too much longer. But I have never done what so many authors apparently do and trash nearly all of a completed work, rewriting it nearly completely, or thrown the entirety of a paper away to redo from the ground up. (Secretly, I wonder if anyone actually does this.) I have never felt that a first draft of mine was utter rubbish (remember, it takes me a while to work up to that); usually I feel there are bits that are pretty good and bits that aren’t and I try to get to work on those.

I also know that before I actually write something down, most times I have gone over the scene in my head multiple times (sometimes, frustratingly, forgetting a ‘perfect’ line of dialogue) and I don’t really write something (whether sentence, paragraph, or longer bit) straight through. I write a bit, erase some, write some more, go back and throw something in the middle of a bit I already wrote, and then go back and start working on the ‘end’ again. I think I did the previous sentence in three little burst rather than one smooth writing ‘motion’, and this one took me two. Of course this is greatly facilitated by word-processing software and if I was trying to write by hand or on a typewriter I would probably have long had to choose between changing methods or the abyss of despair. However that may be, this leaves me feeling that what I might call a ‘first’ draft has really been heavily rewritten already, but I assume most writers do this, so it probably doesn’t count.

This has always left me with a vague suspicion that I am Doing Something Wrong, but on the other hand the results have been ok so I have kept on with it. Along with the Impostor Syndrome, what this also fuels is my sense that there probably isn’t an absolute Right and Wrong way to write, or indeed any creative process. I think it’s easy to feel like what works for you must be the absolute right way – because it works – so most of the advice out there is probably well meaning enough, but I continue to think that you’ve basically just gotta try some stuff and figure out what works for you.

If I’m in two minds about the whole first draft thing, it may be because editing sets off two different feelings in me overall. One is shock/horror – I am always amazed at the terrible crimes against plot and language that have slipped past me. Which makes me very grateful for my Eager Volunteers and editors. The other, fortunately, is satisfaction. It’s nice to re-read something I wrote and maybe haven’t looked at in a while and come away with the feeling that it works all right. It helps with the Impostor Syndrome.

I suppose it also makes me think that we very rarely get things exactly right the first time, that we often need to give things a little work and a few go-overs to get them right, and that there’s nothing the matter with getting some help as you do that. Here I begin to veer perilously close to Advice, though, so I’m going to call it for this week.

Thanks for reading.

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Bonhomme Sept-Heures

This week I have some exciting news: a few days ago, I received confirmation that Renaissance Press will publish Bonhomme Sept-Heures, the sequel to my first novel, The King in Darkness. I can tell you that having a second novel accepted for publication is just about as thrilling as the first time around. I imagine it’s inevitable, given the amount of time that goes into writing a manuscript, to put some emotional investment in there as well, and so the ‘yes’ to the piece of art is a ‘yes’ to a little piece of the soul as well. Given my own ever-present doubts about my own work, too, it’s wonderful to have a pat on the back from people who take books very seriously and have them tell me that they think mine is good.

Of course now there is a great deal of work to do to get ready to share the story with all of you; the next months will be filled with editing the manuscript so that it will show its best when it arrives in your hands. Having been through the process once, I now have a better idea of exactly how much labour there is to be done, and how much of a team effort it really is between the author and the editors. I think I may already have told the story here about how I didn’t expect there to be too much work to be done on King in Darkness after my own rewrites and feedback from the Eager Volunteers, and then I got thirty pages of notes from the first editor. It was a bit sobering, it was enlightening, and the book was very much better as a result.

At the same time, I am thinking of writing the Next Thing and hoping to regain momentum on my new project. I’d still like to have a first draft of it done by summer’s end, although somehow we are now already in June and I’m not sure it’s possible. I’ll have to see how it goes.

For now, thank you to everyone who has already read some or all of Bonhomme Sept-Heures and has helped me get it this far. Your ideas and your encouragement made it possible to make the story as good as it is and I am tremendously grateful. I’m also pre-emptively grateful to the editors at Renaissance who will be working with me over the next few months; I apologize in advance for the length of some of the sentences.

I don’t yet know when Bonhomme Sept-Heures will be released, although obviously I’ll keep you updated as the process goes on. I’m excited for you to read it, but I also want to make sure it’s worthy of your time when it gets to you. One final thanks today to everyone who read King in Darkness and told me that you wanted to read what happens next; the response to the first part of Adam Godwinson’s story was really encouraging and gratifying and I hope you’ll enjoy the next part just as much.

I look forward to putting the story in your hands and hearing what you think about it.

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This past weekend I was interviewed on the Sunday Morning Coffee podcast by my friend Scott Gardiner; although it is no longer Sunday morning, I’m pretty sure he’d still be all right with you giving it a listen. We talked about writing, my early experiences in publishing, and how goddamn old I am now. You can find the episode on iTunes or from the SMC website here.

Just like with your favourite authors, if you enjoy the podcast, it would be a great help if you left a review on iTunes.

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