So I’ve finally finished the current work-in-progress, done a first round of edits and Ratline is now off to my editor for some serious fluff-trimming.
What – you only do one edit? I hear you ask. Not really. I’m not a draft writer. There are those who press GO and keep writing until they get to the end, when they press STOP. Any interruptions and they lose the creative flow. But I’m constantly re-writing as I go along. Sometimes I end up with less words than I started with, which is always kind of depressing, until I reassure myself that at least they are better words. On this book, I found that I couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters for quite some time – eventually I realised that was because they weren’t the right first couple of chapters. So I listened to my subconscious and rewrote until it worked – and then it was like unblocking the sink and everything started flowing freely again.
So I’m editing and rewriting constantly, always trying to make what’s gone before as perfect as possible before moving on. Yes, sometimes things will change later, but generally once I’m happy with it, it more-or-less stays in that form. I research as I go along too: How far between service stations on a certain motorway? Where is the nearest supermarket to an address, and what is the layout of the car park? What time was dawn on a specific day of the year? I’ll track journeys on Google Maps and find landmarks to add a level of authenticity. It’s a slow process, but gradually it knits together and starts resembling a novel.
So having got to THE END, it’s a slow read-through from the start. Now, I’m looking for the typos that Word can't find, repeated words, clunky sentences and over-use of catch phrases. How many times can everybody smirk in one scene?! Adverb-chopping, too – although lose too many and your writing becomes bland and boring. Adjectives and adverbs are like herbs: use just enough to flavour the story, but not enough to be aware of their presence.
This is also where I’ll notice that I’ve somehow got more firearms in a scene than I started with. Where a character would have to be a superhero to get from A to B in time to do something, and where somebody couldn’t possible say what they did, because they weren’t there and didn’t know. Mobile phones and the internet are useful tools, too – I’m constantly amazed how many modern books I read where the characters never text each other or talk on their mobiles. My teenager couldn’t function without her phone.
And then it’s time to wrap it up and send it off to my beta reader and my editor. Both are wonderful. They tell me the good, the bad (and even the ugly), but both are incredibly motivating. And I know if can satisfy both of them, I can set this baby loose in the world.