Writing a book part 16: a second draft

Over the last month, I have been reading and editing the first draft of the first half of my book. On one hand, this feels like a milestone - but on the other hand, it shows just how much is still to be done.

Problem number one: I'm worried that the writing style varies too much. In some chapters it comes across as light comedy, in others it comes across as almost melodramatic. I would much prefer to be consistent, one way or the other. And preferably not melodramatic at all. That potentially requires significant rewrites, which is daunting - especially because it will be at least another year before I finish writing the second half of the book.

Similarly, some of the characterisation seems inconsistent. This suggests that I still don't have a fully formed impression of the characters yet - which is a fatal flaw if you're writing a book, especially one which is supposed to be driven more by character than plot. I even change one of the names halfway through. Oops.

Furthermore, towards the end of the first half I start drifting away from my original plans. If the story evolves that's fine - so long as it's for the better. But I suspect some of the ideas I was having while writing undermine  the original plot.

Finally, one of the main devices used by the protagonist - a 'memory palace' method of memorising wines - might come across as contrived. It's not central to the plot, so I could drop it without too much trouble - but it does account for a lot of words across several different chapters, which I'm loath to lose.

Show don't tell

All of which sounds very disheartening, but in fact, it's quite gratifying to get to this stage and be able to make decisions to improve the book. One of the most satisfying and straightforward changes is to 'show don't tell' - in other words, avoiding didactic narrative and making the writing speak for itself.

In practice, that means cutting the more overt sentences, such as 'she glanced around the room nervously,' and instead make the nervousness self-evident. The theory goes that if you have to explain the mood of the moment to your readers, then your writing is ineffective.

There's plenty more to be done, and I'm still working on it daily. I now plan to finish this second draft of the first half by Christmas, at which point I may well share it with some friends to get feedback.

Richard Hemming2 Comments