Is It Ever Really ‘The End’?

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With paperback of KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME hitting the shops now, and proof copies of THE DARK ROOM reaching reviewers ahead of publiation in January, I ‘finished’ the second draft of REMEMBER MY NAME yesterday – which will be Sam Blake book 6, and is due out January 2022 – I’m ahead of myself!.

When I say ‘finished’, it’s a very loose term – I’ve finished it enough to send it to the printers to be spiral bound for the next stage. The third draft I always read on paper – I’m already thinking of things I need to add, but reading it like a real book (as opposed to on the screen) shows me whether the plot works and if the flow is right.

I think I enjoy this part of the process the most – I was telling the Writers Ink writing group yesterday that the first draft always feels like an uphill sprint – after many years of practice I know not to stop and start a deep dive into research on the way up the hill – most of that has been done in the planning stage, but there’s often the odd thing I realise I don’t know, or I forget someone’s name. Rather than interupting the flow, that sprint, I just leave a gap and mark it ‘888’ in the text so that I can find it again. If I stopped, I know I’d take ages to get back up to speed again!

For me, the first draft is about finding the story, discovering things that, despite my fairly detailed planning at the start, I didn’t know about the characters. Then I go over it on the screen from beginning to end, tweaking and (mainly) deleting the repetition, fixing or changing names, making sure there’s enough descriptive detail for you to see the picture.

This next part of the drafting process, reading it on paper, gives me a chance to stop running, and wander into the garden and look at the flowers, pulling out the weeds and reorganising the pots so everything is displayed to its best advantage. I read this draft right through, red pen in hand, adusting lines as I go and making notes on the parts to check/bits to add.

As I was driving home from the school run today (I do a lot of plot ruminating in the car) I realised that I very rarely write THE END on a draft – I think I may have done in one book, but only one (and I’m not sure if it got to print!) I think it’s because the stories never really end for me, the characters all have lives that will continue after I’ve left – I’m only framing their story, looking at them through a window – for a short period of time. It might be our end, yours and mine, but it’s not theirs.

The picture here is the shelf of printed drafts in my office – some books have needed more than one to really get right – one day they *may* be worth a fortune (I live in hope 😉 ) I probably should have tidied the shelf before taking the picture, but consider it ‘Work In Progess’ 🙂

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