When I starting this scribbling business in 2009, I wrote the second part of my trilogy first. I didn’t know I had at the time. I sat down one morning in front of my computer and typed for three months.
As a professional translator, I knew it would have to edit anything I produced. I joined a writer’s group and got through the terror of reading my offering out loud and receiving comments and criticism. I toughened up. I ordered and consumed books on writing, I swapped others with the writing group members. I put out tentative feelers to find out how to publish. I went along to seminars, listened to talks. I was on my way.
My novel’s heroine was established in her role; she knew her world, she had a significant other and she duly saved the day. What could be wrong?
But after one writer’s group evening, the discussion confirmed a doubt which had started sliding into my head by the back door a week or two earlier. Why had I started where I had? Why hadn’t I started at the beginning of her story?
I explained to myself and the group that I would publish(!) the first part afterwards. I didn’t need to be all conventional.
Er, yes, I did.
To get a second sale, you have to hook your readers. When did you ever read a trilogy or series that didn’t start with part 1? I don’t mean the absolute beginning of the heroine’s or hero’s life, but their first adventure/case/ revelation/ pivotal point in their life. (I’ll probably get bombarded with comments and emails quoting hundreds of examples now 😉 ).
But I saw the logic and took another three months to draft the first part. Seven drafts later, I submitted it to the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Scheme and received terrific feedback plus a load of points to work on. This is the book whose progress I have mentioned from time to time in this blog.
But what of that book I wrote first – the second part of the trilogy? The one I cut my teeth on. I dug it out of the archive, printed it out and wept. It was crap. The story was basically sound, but dear gods, the words: clichés, telling, dough, fluff, gratuitous scenes, sag, cardboard characters.
So out came the machete, the clichéometer was cranked up and the stomper readied. I have left some sentences and even the odd paragraph untouched. This is encouraging. I am on page 41 with 248 to go. It’ll be over before Christmas.
I realise that since putting that first novel aside, I have learned so much and practised so much more. My writing is at a different level altogether and importantly, I can see that. Which is quite a relief.
So am I alone or have you noticed a similar change in your writing?