Writing my novel Picking up the Pieces – which I’m currently gearing up to publish – has been no mean feat. From first ideas to draft six we’re talking two years. I got paranoid about this, and convinced myself that I wasn’t a real writer, until reading this article about slow writing, which put my mind at ease. For me, the first big rewrite felt like a monumental task, but as with the original writing, once I’d established a good writing habit, it became much easier. So here are my tips, just in case you’re struggling with your own rewrite.
Take a break
After convincing myself that the book was a huge steaming pile of poo (damn those self doubt demons!) I took six months off from it altogether. In hindsight it was the best thing I did, as it gave me a new perspective and fresh set of eyes. Sometimes we are simply too close to our own words to be able to see what is right in front of us.
Get a second opinion
If you can afford it, I’m a massive advocate of having a manuscript critique by a professional editor. This means sending your work to someone who edits books for a living, and asking them to provide you with detailed, constructive feedback. I had mine done on the first draft about a year ago, and still believe that it £150 well spent. She pointed out that I was jumping around flitting from one point of view to another, which I hadn’t even realised I had been doing, or wasn’t allowed. She also mentioned other things that would have more than likely gone unnoticed. In addition to the editor, I’ve also sent various drafts off to friends and friends of friends to beta read. Their feedback has been really positive and some of it vital to moving the draft along.
Good writers are great editors
Which brings me nicely onto my next point. Don’t be afraid to cut whole paragraphs out, and even a whole chapter if you’re acting on good advice. I have a document called the cutting room floor, which is where I’ve kept whole chunks of text that didn’t make the final draft. It contains around six thousand words, which could potentially be used for other things. This provides a way for me to edit brutally without panicking later that I’ve deleted my best work.
Trust your gut instincts
Writing a book is like having another baby, and my maternal instincts have definitely come into their own. One of the conclusions I came to after my six month break was that the book being written in third person narrative wasn’t right. Picking up the Pieces is an emotionally charged roller coaster ride through motherhood and mental health, and first person narrative works so much better. It meant a crap tonne of additional work, but it was well worth it. I don’t think there’s a woman on the planet who won’t be able to connect with my protagonist Kate, especially mothers. With later drafts I just knew that certain things were not right. All it’s taken is for someone else to pick up on the same thing, to prompt the necessary changes.
Don’t ignore the feedback you’ve asked for
Last week my dear friend – who is also a writer – read the book for the second time. She loved the very first draft, but said she literally couldn’t put it down this time. She read it in two days, and gave me some excellent feedback. The most significant thing she mentioned related to a chapter that I knew in my heart of hearts was the weak link. So it’s gone. It was Kate’s back story, and had key pieces of information which I’ve included elsewhere. Essentially I added two thousand words to the cutting room floor, but my goodness it felt good to not feel attached to them anymore.
Do you have any tips to add? Tweet me @mummytries
** thanks once again to the fabulous Unsplash for the gorgeous photos!