I think I’m finally approaching the end of what I’m calling the second draft — although, technically, it’s more like the third — of my novel, Monsters of Elsewhere. It’s taken longer than I’d originally hoped; I started this particular draft mid-November and had thought it would take one to two months.
This is about par for the course, though. The whole novel has taken longer than it perhaps should have. I originally started it at the beginning of September 2012 and wrote 44,000 words that month. I’m generally a pretty fast writer (though the less said about the quality of my early drafts, the better) but October and November were slower — around 19,000 words in each month — and by December I’d almost stopped entirely. After that, I did a couple of thousand words here and there, but it wasn’t until June that I properly picked things up again. I eventually finished the first draft on July 29th 2013.
I left it for around six weeks before I printed out the (enormous) manuscript and started The Big Read, hoping that the time away would give me fresh eyes when I came back to it. I gave the whole thing the ‘red pen’ treatment. I then went back to my laptop, correcting all the typos, continuity errors, dreadful writing, and gaping plot holes I could see. That whole process took a month and I was left with what felt more like a ‘draft 1b’ than a second draft.
I printed two copies of the new manuscript — double-sided, with two ‘pages’ per sheet (it was 180,000 words) — and sent it, at a cost of around £9,000,000 in postage stamps, to the two people who I’d coerced into being my beta readers — Andy and Danielle.
That’s about the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done, by the way. I’ve had my writing read before — I used to run an online magazine, have had articles and interviews published in other online mags, and have practically forced screenplays into the hands of studio execs along La Croisette in Cannes (Andy and I even managed to hustle our way into Harvey Weinstein’s company… very briefly) — but I felt much more exposed this time. Obviously, I knew that, as a Draft 1B, it was going to need a lot of work. I also knew that both Andy and Danielle knew that. For one thing, I’d told them, for another Andy had already been through this same process with his own novel, The Electric. Even so, I was what — growing up — we used to call ‘shitting my fucking pants’ about handing over something I’d worked on for so long to people whose only job was to pull the thing to shreds and tell me all of the very, very many things I had fucked up.
They didn’t disappoint.
I had both sets of notes back by mid-November and have been working on this draft since then. A slow start to the new year — followed by a couple of weeks in Siberia… sorry, I mean Michigan — has meant that I’m still working on the thing. But, finally, the end is in sight. Probably a week or so away.
Then I’ll send it to my beta readers again. They’ve insisted on reading the new draft, presumably so they can check if I’ve actually listened to their feedback and give me a bollocking wherever it’s apparent that I haven’t. (The assholes.)
My plan is to read it at the same time as they do, in the interests of not adding any further delays. After that, I’ll have three more marked-up copies to work through and, if I haven’t shredded the whole bloody thing after reading the feedback, I’ll then start on draft three.
It’s a really long process, made longer still by events in my personal life over the last twelve months, but it’s great to feel like I’m closing in on it now. Well, I say I’m closing in on it, but that’s actually kind of bullshit. All I’m closing in on is the point at which I think I’ll have taken it as far as I can on my own.
That’s when it goes to an editor… then a proofreader… then it needs to be formatted for printing and for e-readers… then I need to get the cover finalised.
Oh, for fuc—