An account of the steps I’ve taken so far in the writing of my unpublished manuscript for which I’m using the working title: Eternity.
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.
I printed out the first draft, edited it and rewrote the manuscript in around one month.
Second draft complete.
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.
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:
I reconsidered removing the whole prologue and instead, cut it up and dispersed it throughout part one of the novel.
Fourth draft complete.
I handed the first 20k words of the fourth draft of the manuscript over to an editor to look at before submitting to an unpublished manuscript competition.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.
I submitted the completed fifth draft of the manuscript to:
One unpublished manuscript competition
Two literary agencies, and;
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…