I’ve just finished writing the first draft of a new DI Horton marine mystery crime novel with a feeling of relief and exhilaration. Of course, this is nowhere near the finished version, in fact there are chunks missing at the end of the novel (although the last chapter is there of a kind), and not all the facts tie up and certainly the clues and red herrings aren’t all in place. But now I feel released from that great sense of urgency to get everything down on paper (or rather computer screen) and can get on with the real business of writing. That might sound strange but I am sure other writers feel the same way.
You have an idea, you work it into a plot, you create and build your characters and you start to write your novel. For me, once I have the basics of the plot and characters I can’t wait to start the creative writing process with an urge to complete it as quickly as possible. In fact, I often wish I could do a brain dump straight on to the computer without having to touch the keyboard. Once this first draft is complete I can then begin to revise, revise and revise until I know it backwards, upside down and inside out. When I first started writing many years ago it was this revision stage that I skipped, and I now know the cause of so many rejection slips from literary agents and publishers.
When giving talks I liken writing a novel to painting a picture. First you put on the wash, and draw the outlines and then you begin to fill in the details until you are happy with the perspective, the colours, the composition etc. The revisions allow me to flesh out the characters, to analyse the structure of the novel, to make sure that I am telling the story from the correct point of view and last but no means least to check that the novel has adequate tension, conflicts, rhythm and pace.
So which do I prefer, the creative first draft or the umpteen revisions? At the risk of sounding as though I can’t make up my mind, I love both. From that moment when the ideas are fresh and the writing seems to take on a life of its own, to the meticulous research and tying up of loose ends. Then finally analysing the words, sentences and paragraphs until I begin to suffer from word and plot blindness and my editor needs to take over. After all if I didn’t love it then I wouldn’t be writing, would I?