Monday, 11 April 2011

Completing a Novel.... and then the rest

So I did it.

I finished my work in progress.

And I did it in grand style, courtesy of a spa day Mother's Day present which took me to the exalted environs of Stobo Castle near Peebles - now a health spa, but once the seat of the Graham-Montgomery baronets. The current castle was completed in 1811 and is reassuringly castle-ish on its exteriors, and even more reassuringly health spa-ish on its interior; full of steaming ladies (warm not drunk) and manicured beauty therapists of impeccable professionalism.

I might have looked moderately freakish sitting in my white fluffy bathrobe tapping away at my grubby little netbook whilst sipping fruit tea in the Drawing Room, but I was utterly thrilled by the aptness of my surroundings. Well, okay, my novel is set in 1821 London and doesn't even have the hint of a Scottish accent within its pages, but a historic house is a historic house so we shan't quibble over that.

Spas and castles aside my book is finished! Woohoo! Three chapters before this eventful moment and buoyed up on a rising tide of excitement I tweeted as much, only to be met by this laughing response:

LOL! Hardly! Then comes revisions, submitting, and rejections. Followed by abject misery, self-doubt, and rewrites!

...from author Leah Marie Brown who, having written four historical romances, is more than familiar with the process.

Oh yeah, damn.

In actuality I'm finding the (self) editing process to be quite enjoyable. Being the novel writing equivalent of a debutante I haven't a clue as the correct form for editing. I'm making it up as I go along. Here's my work flow so far:

1. Exported the manuscript from the wonderful Scrivener in manuscript form as a rich text file and opened it in Microsoft Word.

2. Followed the Smashwords Style Guide to cleaning up my manuscript for e-publication. This isn't because I want to self publish, but because I wanted to send it to a friend to read and she reads (as I do) on a kindle. I wanted to make the experience as user friendly for her as possible. In the process of cleaning the manuscript I stumbled across a number of formatting errors that I was able to sort out.

4. Spellchecked in word and took out various misspelling Scrivener hadn't picked up and general errors like repeated words etc, which MS Word finds, but Scrivener doesn't seem to.

3. Imported my cleaned up rich text file in Calibre, a neat piece of software which allows you to export a document or book into various different e-reader friendly documents.

4. Imported my book to Kindle and started reading. I'm naturally a skim reader and therefore officially The Worst Proof Reader in The World, but there's something about reading on Kindle which makes my eye slow down and take more in. I started noticing mistakes a plenty - places where I had foreshadowed a plot device and then forgotten to use it, inconsistent names or physical descriptions and great big chunks of back story which were just DULL.

5. Printed out the whole thing, whilst sending up a prayer for absolution for the dead trees which are contributing to my editing process and started reading on my Kindle again - this time making notes on the manuscript. I did the first nine chapters and then I turned on my netbook.

6. I'm now going through making my basic amendments to the manuscript: deleting chunks of back story, re-writing lines where the characterisation seems inconsistent and random foreshadowing plot devices which I ended up not using.

This would be the 'door closed' part of the editing process which Stephen King describes in the rather marvellous On Writing. If I am to follow Mr King's advice, I will be locking my baby (the manuscript not the real one) away in a drawer for six weeks before it emerges once more to greet the light and be subject to yet more ruthless pruning. Having just done the same to the garden and vanguished a ferocious army of creeping thorns, I'm game for it.

I'm sure the rejections won't be so much fun, gulp.

Is this the same or different from your workflow? I'm new to this and I would love to know!


Leah Marie Brown said...

Thanks for the mention! I hope you know that it is a huge accomplishment to have finished your novel. Don't let my slightly jaded response bring you down. Just keep on polishing that baby and be wicked PROUD!

(I have actually written six novels. SILENCE IN THIS MIST, a historical with romantic elements is due out July 7)

Please keep in touch!

Meg McNulty said...

Congratulations Leah! I would love to read it - let me know where I can get hold of a copy.

Leah Marie Brown said...

Silence in the Mist is available now online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon!