The Clock Tower, Brighton
Following on from a FaceBook conversation, I thought I’d say something about my working methods and how these methods have to be adapted to suit what’s happening in my writing life.
When writing the first draft of a novel, I used to write a big chunk and then go back and polish it. But when I did the thing I mentioned – wrote 5000 words on Monday and had polished them down to 2000 by Friday – I really felt I was getting nowhere.
So, now, if I’m writing a book or a serial instalment, I try and write a minimum of 1000 words a writing day. It’s often a lot more than that but rarely more than 2000. The next day, I will reread and edit what I wrote the previous day and then crack straight on with the next 1000+ words. Unless I have to make storyline changes, I work through the first draft that way. (Subsequent drafts don’t need the same kind of methodism.)
Writing a first draft isn’t always that straightforward, of course. For example, I wrote 20,000 words of a new book, Love and Freedom
, which I had to leave in June to embark on a rewrite of the book that’s due out in November, Want to Know a Secret?
Then I went on holiday (to Connecticut), and had two conferences to attend plus another rewrite of Want to Know a Secret?
and then do the copy edits (which now, I’m relieved to say, are all done).
So, now I return to Love and Freedom
and have to get back into it. As well as wandering through the hundreds of research pix, such as these, that I took in April, I am reading my way through the 20,000 words already written.
The road between Saltdean and Rottingdean
This afternoon, I have spent hours researching US law school, UK rock festivals, handfasting and the autumnal equinox just to work on a couple of pages that are cruicial to the backstory timeline. (My copy editor will be relieved to know I even have a timeline …) I have expanded the scene a little, so the book is a few hundred words longer, but the object of the current exercise is to sink myself back into the story.
When I get to the end of reading and working on the 20,000 words (now nearly 22,000 but who’s counting?) I will return to my first draft process of adding 1000+ per day and only rereading and editing the previous day’s work.