The Difficult Second Book – Part II

31 Aug

Last November I posted an article about the difficulties of writing your second book. That was when I was just starting it. Now, 9 months later, and about 6 months behind my intended schedule, I’ve finally finished the first draft and passed it on to the Lady With The Big Red Pen (a.k.a. my long-suffering girlfriend) to go through with a fine-toothed comb, picking up the problems, pointing out where the plot doesn’t really work, marking where the characters are a bit flat and the dialogue doesn’t really work.

There’s two times in the writing a book when I find getting some outside editing advice is most vital. The first is right at the end, just before submission or publication to catch all those little grammatical errors and typos, and is fairly obvious, but the second is less so. This is when the first draft has been completed. This is because this is the time when it’s easiest to fix any problems with the plots and characters; and there will always be problems with these aspects of a book in the first draft. If you don’t get these sorted early, you may find yourself having to throw away chunks of text you’ve spent hours honing to perfection simply because you’ve got rid of a specific plot line or character and they are no longer needed and that’s just soul-destroying. It’s so much better if you can shake all the problems with the plot and characters when the text is, quite frankly, still a bit of a mess (and this is true of all first drafts).

So, I’ve printed out all 86,184 words which make up my first draft and will wait with bated breath while my girlfriend reads it, red pen in hand. I know there’ll be some bits she likes, and I know there’ll bits she won’t. I’m okay with that because these will often be the very bits I struggled with myself and that I know don’t really work, and she’ll be able to tell me where I’ve gone wrong and what I need to do to fix it. In many cases, the problems and solutions will be obvious the moment she points them out, but without her input I’d have difficultly spotting them because I’m too close to the book – after all it is my baby.

Once her thoughts are in, it will be on with the next stage, because finishing the first draft isn’t the end, it’s not even the beginning of the end, it’s only the end of the beginning. This bit will be the editing, where I’ll start tightening up the plot lines and clipping away at the extraneous descriptions; new set pieces will be added where the first draft is a bit slow and events mentioned in passing will be expanded to fill out the story line; dialogue will be pruned and polished; characters will be fleshed out and made more real (some may even get a sex change if that’s what’s needed to make them work). At some stage the title might even get changed because I’m not too sure I like the working title I’ve given it so far (which is, incidentally, On The Edge Of The World). By then my 86,000 words will probably have grown somewhere closer to 100,000 and it will be time to move onto the next stage: running it passed my handful of specially-selected readers to get their thoughts, before the final session of editing and re-writing.

So, all in all, there’s still a long way to go, but with the first draft now, after many months longer than I intended, out of the way, I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere with this second book. There’s still bits I’m not entirely happy with, but there are others where I feel it’s coming together nicely. I can finally see that I have something which I think will work and which will be a worthy follow-up to For Those In Peril On The Sea. Happy days!

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

2 Responses to “The Difficult Second Book – Part II”

  1. Pippa DaCosta 02/09/2013 at 13:42 #

    You’re very lucky to have an understanding girlfriend who will do that first read-through for you. It’s vital to have that fresh pair of eyes, but also a pair of eyes that can read with an analytical mind. Exciting times, though.

    • cmdrysdale 02/09/2013 at 14:54 #

      Yes, I am very lucky on that front, and yes, definitely exciting times!

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