An account of the steps I’ve taken so far in the writing of my unpublished manuscript for which I’m using the working title: Eternity.

First Draft

  • The first draft began as notes in a series of journals. I filled three hard-copy exercise books and I also wrote around forty-thousand words in a Google Doc. I was travelling with an iPad with Bluetooth keyboard that doubled as a case. It just depended where I was as to which writing medium I used. My greatest fear when travelling was losing my handwritten notes, so I took a photo of each page with my iPad, which then saved to the cloud.

  • I began my trip to South America adamant that I wouldn’t turn my notes into a novel. I’d done this before with my first novel (Journey) in the years spanning 2011-2016. I finished a third draft of Journey just prior to leaving on my recent return to South America in 2016, and I didn’t want to go through that whole process again. Half way through my trip I changed my mind and decided I would turn my journal notes into a novel.

  • When I returned home from my trip, I spent a couple of months compiling the notes I’d written on Google Docs with the handwritten notes I’d made in my journals. I added in descriptions of places and landscapes using photos I’d taken as prompts and I built out the dialogue.

  • First draft complete.

 Second Draft

  • I printed out the first draft, edited it and rewrote the manuscript in around one month.

  • Second draft complete.

 Third Draft

  • I gave the second draft to a few readers: my mum, sister, girlfriend, and two close friends. I took on the consistent feedback to develop the supporting characters further. I also made general structural changes, added in some backstory, and removed a couple of characters.

  • Third draft complete.

Fourth Draft

  • I joined a writers group and on my first day I gave the first few pages of my manuscript to a woman working at the writing centre. Her advice was this: readers like to be dropped straight into the action.

  • I removed the “prologue” from the novel and added two scenes that dropped the reader straight into the action:

    • A flashback from Journey (ambiguous psychedelic scene that you can read here.)

    • An account of the protagonist’s first experiences with DMT. Read here.

  • I reconsidered removing the whole prologue and instead, cut it up and dispersed it throughout part one of the novel.

  • Fourth draft complete.

Fifth Draft

  • I handed the first 20k words of the fourth draft of the manuscript over to an editor to look at before submitting to an unpublished manuscript competition.

  • Extrapolating the feedback from first 20k words to the rest of the 100k words, I removed unnecessary uses of word “that”, changed passive passages into active passages, and most laboriously, changed the tense from past to present.

  • Fifth draft complete.

Sixth Draft

  • I submitted the completed fifth draft of the manuscript to:

    • One unpublished manuscript competition

    • Two literary agencies, and;

    • Two publishers

  • I was not long-listed for the competition and I was rejected by both agencies and both publishers. I received positive and specific feedback from one agent, which was unexpected and wonderful.

  • I joined three different writers groups, sent my writing out to a dozen different readers, and went along to the following publishing and writing events:

    • Emerging Writer’s Festival in Melbourne

    • Extension Course: Getting published at UWA

    • Perth short story festival in Northbridge

    • Publication Event at Peter Cowan Writer’s Centre in Joondalup

  • Entering short story competitions (with tight word limits) has taught me a lot about refining my prose. I know also that I’ve been guilty of leaving in sections of the novel that don’t really move the story along. Even though I’ve made many changes to the story I wrote in my original journals, I’ve still been holding onto attachment to parts of the novel simply because, ‘that’s the way it really happened.’

  • As such, it’s time for me to write another draft…

  • Points to address for the sixth draft:

    • Rework the opening chapter (build out the ‘home life’ of the protagonist including details on work as a substitute teacher).

    • Merge or remove superfluous characters

    • Cut unnecessary words, scenes, and (eek!) chapters

    • Trim word count down from 115k to 90k

  • Sixth draft, commenced…

Alexander Toums