Today I finished reading through the first draft of a novel I wrote three years ago. I rather enjoyed reading over it – a pleasant surprise. My expectations were low – which is probably wise when reading a first draft. There are lots of problems, to be sure, and the ending needs some work – like a whole new section probably – but it was interesting and fun and readable. I even laughed in places.

That’s not to say anyone else would, of course, but it’s a start.

It’s nowhere near ready for anyone else to read it, but when we get back from our holiday I’ll do some more work on it. This is my revision process:

1. print the whole thing, double spaced, pages numbered, but duplex because paper doesn’t grow on trees… well, you know what I mean.

2. read the hard copy, write all over it, make notes on outline, or if there wasn’t one to begin with, make an outline!

3. go back to the digital version and, reading it a second time, make adjustments. Usually this involves doing all the fixes and rewrites suggested in my barely-legible scrawl on the hard copy. I probably have to write a few new bits and cut other bits. I always have consistency problems with names… but hopefully I’ve noticed by now.

4. give it to others to read – my husband is great for this. He spots all the bits that don’t make sense, as well as any spelling/grammar issues. Unfortunately he’s not really my target demographic… it’s nice that he enjoys my writing but I usually need a couple of other readers. People who give detailed critical and constructive feedback are rare and wonderful.

5. usually some time later… I go over it again, taking into account the feedback, and as I’ve had some distance from it myself I will no doubt have my own changes to make.

6. Next: write the hook and synopsis for a query letter. If this is too difficult then chances are the book itself isn’t ready.

Today I finished number 2. When I get back from holiday I’ll start on number three. And for this book that’ll mean a lot of rewriting and a few serious name issues… eg. I used the first names Gareth and Peter twice each… and both for the same character at one point… oops. I also gave my main character and her boyfriend the same surname. On accident.

Oh dear.

That gives an indication of just how much work this draft needs. The ending is the most alarming bit – I think there needs to be one or two more major events… and I’m feeling mean. Someone might die. There may be some serious betrayal. Once upon a time I was nice to my characters but I’m getting older and braver and meaner. My poor characters…

So there’s lots to be done. But that’s fine. I read a good quote on twitter earlier today:

“When we demand that we always paint or write or draw well, we are putting our critic in charge of our creative process.” – Julia Cameron

I’ve become quite good at kicking my inner critic out of the house for weeks or months at a time when I’m writing a first draft. Now I have to get him back, though, to get this thing fine-tuned. He’s more forgiving than you’d think, for a critic. I suppose he’s always keen for new material to rip to pieces.