Saturday, May 11, 2013


You might have to do this many, many times.
I can’t tell you how many times but Pride & Princesses probably had about a hundred drafts over a period of at least two years… and it’s not perfect at all… and the spelling and punctuation, because it had to please editors on two different continents, ended up being both US and UK…
(*Readers please note, I have a US draft ready to go again but I just have to get the chance to change over the file at Amazon!)
Now, by this point (at least a month or two after you started) you should have a working draft of your novel.
·         Put it aside and get on with your life.
·         Go back to it after you’ve had a complete ‘vacay’ away from both it and your laptop.
·         Then return to it after a break.
·         Have a long hard look at it.
·         Read it again.
·         Yep, you are probably going to have to re-draft that draft.
I can’t stress enough that you have to keep going over it with your eyes.
Until it’s as polished as you want it to be.
First, you are drafting for the overall story, characters etc. I’d save the ‘copy edit’ to the final drafts and if at all possible you really need someone else to do that for you. Find someone who understands more about spelling, punctuation and grammar than you do. Make sure, if you are submitting in the US it follows US standards. Remember, in the UK and Australia/NZ English (spelling and punctuation) have many subtle differences to US English (spelling and punctuation). 
Every morning (or whenever you review your draft) you will literally find words and sentences you want to change.
The bad news?
I’m not sure when this process ends.
I once had an agent who I gave my final draft of my first ‘grown up’ novel (not Pride & Princesses!) to and it was slightly “unpunctuated.”
He looked at me like I was delusional. He wondered if I’d forgotten how to punctuate my work.
But what can I say?
I was very young.
“I wrote it in a hurry,” I said. “An editor is just going to impose punctuation anyway,” I added, rather bizarrely as I grabbed my new red coat and attempted to leave his office to go to lunch with my new boyfriend.  
Not impressed? Strangely, he wasn’t either. Sometimes teenagers have more on their minds than what is at hand – even so, I’d left myself open to criticism.
Don’t do it.
It’s not worth it.
Yes, the agent laughed (he had a good sense of humour) …but he also told me to go home and punctuate the manuscript properly.
I took his point and did it.
I guess this ‘drafting & refining’ process could end if and when you bring on board an agent, editor, copy editor or publisher, but my feeling is, the process is just going to begin again. (Lucky you – but hey, by now you might have a deal which really does make you lucky – if it’s a good one!)
 So, in summary: At first draft, you should look at structure and tone. And for the subsequent drafts (up to about nine or ten) you should keep going…
·         Is your structure rock solid?
·         Is your tone what it should be?
I had a problematic character in that first novel (remember, I wrote it when I was eighteen) and a reader remarked that this character ‘seemed angry’ and that it bothered him.
I wasn’t sure what was wrong with having an ‘angry’ character, but in retrospect, it might be an idea to save the ‘angry’ character for a little further into your novel and maybe even your career.
It depends, of course, on the style and genre of your novel. If you are writing something for children, well, it might not be necessary at all. Remember, I am just giving suggestions.
·         Sometimes you get more with sugar than vinegar. You just do.
·         Sometimes you have to play tough but if you’re young, it pays to be (slightly humble). I respect that.
·         I don’t like arrogance. I don’t care how high up in the publishing world a person is, if I encounter it I avoid it.
·         There is a place for presenting an over-confident persona but I don’t think that’s necessarily the way to approach the business of publishing.
·         But it’s your call.
·         It certainly doesn’t pay to be a wilting wildflower either. People might treat you disrespectfully or dismissively (though both are really the same thing).
·         Publishing is a tricky business to navigate unless you have rock-solid contacts who introduce you at the top end of town (ie. amongst people who actually make deals). If you have to get beyond the gate keepers then you are going to need some serious skills. That said, you might also choose to go it alone but I think you should still educate yourself about the business of publishing before making an informed decision.
·         You are going to find that out the hard way, or the easy way, yourself (and by then, my advice is going to be redundant, probably!)  
·         Do your research, be quietly confident (until you are ready to shout to the rooftops) and work hard… there is no substitute for that (except maybe, connections but they are only going to get you so far, maybe through a door no more… of course, if you’ve got them… you might want to tap into them… right about now.)
·         That said, you learn very little of worth in this world without trying things for yourself. I’m not suggesting you have to try things that are bad for you to know they are bad for you.
·         But you will never understand the business of trying to get published through traditional channels (if that is what you want) without actually trying yourself. From the ground up. Now, there’s another story…