It’s taken me 3 weeks, which was a good deal faster than I’d hoped, to get a reasonable 2nd draft of Half a War together. It usually does tend to be the case that the process is less horrifying than you expect once you start to tackle it. Some chapters needed some pretty heavy pruning and addition. Others went through largely unchanged. According to my pedantic charts the first draft was 110,200 words, the second is 107,900, but in fact I’ve probably taken maybe 10,000 out and added 8,000 back in, including 2,500 of entirely new scenes. This slight net reduction is pretty usual for me at this point as I reorganise and strip out the dead wood, but further stages of editing and revision concentrating on personality and setting will probably add quite a few more back in, so we’re probably looking at 110-115,000 for the final book. For comparison, Half a King was 77,000 and Half the World 106,000, but Last Argument of Kings about 230,000.
This has actually left me with a couple of spare work days before Christmas kills things off, so I’m going to use those to look again at 4 key scenes – 3 fights, 1 romance – and try to get as much honesty and originality into those as I possibly can. I write quite a lot of fight scenes so there’s a tendency to reuse the same language and ideas – it pays a lot to go through really thinking about the point of view character and their feelings, the things that make this scene unique, to reach a bit further for some more arresting images and details. In the case of the more romance-y scene I just want to get as much wit and zing into the dialogue and actions as I can so the reader really feels this relationship as believable, and therefore everything that results from it that little bit more intense.
Then it’s time to deliver this book unto my first readers, who have been, ever since I started writing, my Mum, Dad and brother. Hopefully they’ll tell me the book doesn’t suck, which will be hugely important for the confidence. They’ll also have a few comments on what works well and what perhaps doesn’t. While they’re reading my latest book I’ll be reading the previous two to see if there are any little subplots I’ve neglected, details of setting or character I can incorporate. Then I’ll get together a big crib sheet of all the significant primary and secondary characters with some thoughts on key mannerisms, physical characteristics, ticks of speech or action, because the next pass through to produce a 3rd draft, which I’ll hopefully get done early January, focuses on personality, trying to replace the generic with the distinctive both in dialogue and description, and give every person as much character as I possibly can. Plus tackling any outstanding plot and arc issues I didn’t quite get right first time round. And fine-tuning any clunky writing. And putting in more character voice.
Then it’s time to hand it off to the editors. But let’s not get cocky. I still have my own passes to do on setting and language before I’m anywhere near done…