Tuesday, March 11, 2014

White Lies - Off To The Editor

Well, White Lies, the 11th Spider Shepherd novel, is off to the line editor.  My editor at Hodder and Stoughton, Oliver Johnson, who also edits John Grisham in the UK, gave me his input and there wasn't much to do - about three hours' worth of rewriting.  Three hours?  Yup, that's how long it took to get from the first draft to the final draft.

I always smile when I hear writers talk about the weeks they spend polishing and rewriting their books.  I've never worked like that.  I rewrite as I go along, so if I write a paragraph that I'm not 100 per cent happy with, I delete it.  If I'm not happy with a description I change it, and I rewrite all my dialogue as I go along, after reading it out loud. Generally my first drafts are pretty much complete. Rarely do I have to make any changes to the structure of the plot, for instance.

My journalistic background is a big help. When you work on newspapers like The Times and The Daly Mail, the news desk expects you to deliver your copy on time and ready to go. There isn't time to edit and polish, a reporter who doesn't get it right the first time won't last long. When you deliver a story to a national newspaper the facts need to be right and the writing has to flow. Yes there are sub-editors, but if your copy isn't good enough they will soon let you know.  I always prided myself on being fast and accurate when I was a reporter, and that has carried over to my fiction writing.

Writing shouldn't be like pulling teeth, and getting your work ready for publication needn't be a struggle.  Some writers say that once the first draft is done, the hard work really begins. And I get what they mean, I just think it's a very wasteful way of writing. I know some writers who throw away half of what they've written between the first draft and the second draft, and another big chunk between the second and third draft. That seems to me to be very inefficient. Far better to maintain quality control as you work and if you see something you're not completely happy with, don't be afraid to use the delete button.  I always think it's far better to produce 200 words that are close to perfect than 2,000 words that are going to require hours of rewriting. Having said that, as a writer you have to choose what works best for you.

So what's next for me?  I have another Spider Shepherd short story I want to write, and a couple of Jack Nightingale short stories. I already have a rough plot for the 12th Spider Shepherd book.  But I also have a really neat idea for a totally different sort of thriller, one that I'm pretty sure hasn't been done before. I'm keeping that one close to my chest, but I've already started on the research and I'm pretty sure it's going to be amazing!

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