I made a useful discovery last week, useful to me, maybe to others. I had just finished draft 16 of my WIP and loaded chapter one to start draft 17. I couldn’t face it. I kept asking myself how many more of these things will it take? Jeffery Archer does 18 handwritten drafts of each book. Ten drafts ago I had been thinking along similar lines, although I’m working on a laptop. I left it for the night and the following day reduced the workload to a paragraph. It’s so much better, the writing has become more fluid and I’m finding questions that need to be answered. The thing is, that’s how I used to write before I decided to be a writer. I’m still working on that first chapter, and still doubtful that the book will sell, but my characters are speaking to me again, so who knows, maybe in six months I’ll be able to volunteer at my job and write full time.
I’m calling this post Writing Advice because I said on the About page that there would be no writing advice.
Some of the best writing advice I’ve ever had came in a rejection slip. I don’t know if it was intended as advice, but it worked. The Editor said she could see how much work and creativity had gone into the book. After I got over my initial disappointment, which included a lot of ‘What the hell does that mean?’ moments, I had another look at the manuscript and discovered it was so overwritten it could be fairly described as the work of someone desperate to prove they could write.
As I write this there’s one thing that comes back to me. The protagonist, Jack Higgins, is a burglar, and in one sentence I had written ‘To Jack, burglary was an art form, and those on whom he practiced his art…’ It goes on. When I read it out loud I couldn’t believe how bad it was. The idea was fine, the expression was terrible. It took a few rewrites before I arrived at ‘the victims of his art’, much better.
I went through the entire book like that, making the language as straightforward as possible without compromising the story. In some parts I cut whole sections. When I finished I had cut about twelve thousand words. I had also turned what was a run-of-the-mill thriller into what I’m told is a literary thriller, a term I’d never heard.
Unfortunately the finished book was too short for publishers. I didn’t mind that because indie publishing was by then a serious option, so I went that way. Now if I could just figure out how to market a book that’s written for the characters instead of the reader, I might actually sell a few copies!
That book is The Company of Thieves