This year has been rather kind to me. I’ve gone from being an aspiring author to being weblished thanks to the Liverpool Daily Post Live Read Literary Festival, and now I’m about to have the first chapter of my novel “Down To Hades” published in an anthology thanks to being a finalist in this years Writing on the Wall Pulp Idol Competition.
And so not for the first time I return to the first page of Down To Hades, the first line, the first word and ask myself, is this a good enough opening?
I can still remember when it was all white pages. When these 80,000 or so words where nowt more than just a trickle of an idea. I can’t remember the exact first words that I typed but I can remember where I was. It was all so exciting then. The idea was like nothing I’d written before and so there was also a great deal of trepidation. At that time my main character was called Rachel and she was utterly alone. I think that she may have even been human then, but let’s not spoil things.
Since then Rachel has become Hanya. She’s skipped dimensions, attempted suicide 67 times, owns a dog, has a best friend and is just about to kill her boyfriend. And yes, I say that she’s done it. It’s an odd thing when you get so immersed in a piece of work, the things in your imagination start to take over and almost develop a will independent of your own. There are constant surprises as you find characters acting in ways you wouldn’t imagined them capable of just the day before. Taking great personal journeys and sometimes making heartbreaking sacrifices. Others trick you just when you thought you knew them best of all, and we constantly find ourselves falling in love with our antagonists and wanting to make her or him just a little more human. It little wonder that this is the part that I, and most other writers that I know like most of all. If only this was all there was to writing.
But soon the journey ends. You have a finished manuscript. You might want to print it out and hold it in your hands to get the feel of it. You’ll undoubtedly want to tell everyone you know that you’ve written a novel. Some will share in your joy. They’ll be the other writers. Most however, will ask you when you’re going to get it published. No, they can’t just be happy for you.
So, when are you going to get it published?
Well, first things first. Hemingway once said, “The first draft of everything is shit,” and I’ve yet to find a writer who disagrees.
The first draft of Down To Hades was written in 30 days three years ago. Since then it has had one full redraft and numerous partial edits. If I don’t find a way to stop somewhere I could be editing until I’m literally blue in the face.
This time however I have support.
The editing I’ve done solo hasn’t been particularly productive. I can see this now because for the past couple of months I’ve been part of a writing group. They are my first audience and as such they are who I need to please. So when they tell me that they’re rapidly going off my main character I know that she needs some major work. When they pointed out the number of times I used the word had I was shocked. And the overuse of my main characters names is frankly embarrassing. But it would have taken me another redraft to notice these things for myself because I would have been far too busy looking at something else. And these are just a couple of the things they’ve pointed out.
So here I go again, tearing down my work to build it up again and hoping that it’s one of the last times for this novel. Experience tells me otherwise. Happily the last two months experience also tells me that I’m not alone. This time, I may even get something approaching a final draft.