Progress Report August ’18
Things have been more than a bit disrupted over the last couple of months with no less than two moves and a couple of holidays. But today, after eight months out, we are finally moving back into our house. Totally unfinished, of course, so there’s going to be a month at least in which we’re sharing the place with the builders as they finish off, but hopefully getting back to some kind of normal by the end of September.
Work cannot stop, though, of course, and the last couple of months I’ve been ticking over, finishing my reread of all the published First Law books and making notes of anything relevant to the new series, receiving comments from my editor, coming up with an action plan and then going through the First Draft of A Little Hatred with a view to making a Second Draft.
For me this round of revision is the heavy lifting which brings the start of the story into line with where it’s finished up, addressing the bigger editorial concerns, maybe adding a scene or two, but mostly tweaking the characters into line with my long term vision for them, laying the groundwork for later developments of plot and character which I might not have fully anticipated when I wrote the first draft, and getting the voices of the central cast and maybe some of the key secondary characters a bit more consistent and distinctive.
I’m also always looking to cut down. Sometimes a word, sometimes a phrase, sometimes a paragraph. Readers can get panicky about that, with a thought process like, ‘I love the words, and now there’ll be less,’ but cutting is one of the most powerful tools a writer has. You remove what is bad, after all, and leave what is good. You prune what is unnecessary, repetitive, off-point and render sentences, paragraphs, scenes more pacey, meaningful and dynamic.
Still, in general, after a round of revision to get to the first draft where I’m usually cutting quite heavily (maybe 5% of total word count?) In getting to a second draft I’m usually adding words back in on aggregate, with a few themes needing to be emphasised, features picked up on, and maybe a scene or two to add. First draft was 170,700 words. Second will be closer to 175,000, I would imagine, which funnily enough is pretty much exactly what I was aiming at. There is a first time for everything, after all…
Generally when I revise I go through character by character, rather than in chapter order, in an attempt to get each point-of-view’s voice and feelings and progression firmly in my mind, as consistent as possible and as distinct as possible from everyone else. I’ve nearly been through 6 of the 7 central points of view now, with one still to go. He’ll be one of the most difficult, mind you. Still, I expect to have this second draft done within a couple of weeks. Then I need to decide whether to try and do the same thing to the second book (which in some ways needs more work), or push on to some of the more detailed revision of this first one in an effort to get it actually finished. Need to have it done (or at least ready to be copy edited) by year-end to give plenty of time for the September publication date, but that should be plenty of time still, I hope. Very much looking forward to getting another First Law novel out there. Feels like a long time since the last one…