Digging my way through draft 3

RevisionI’ve had a busy couple of weeks recently on the novel.

About a month ago, I hit a bit of a landmark when I put all my chapters, which were in individual files on my laptop, into one file and named it draft 2. It was the first time I had a proper draft novel as such, all in one document, complete with page numbers, headers and cover page with working title.

Better still was when I printed it out. Seeing it in print was quite exciting as, for the first time, I could physically see it in my hands – all 408 pages!

With that large telephone book in hand, I travelled down to my mother’s house a few weeks ago for three and a bit days of revision.

I wasn’t quite sure how to do the editing, what system I should use. I read The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman on the train down, but knew I had to read through all my work first.

That took me more or less a day, I think. As I went, I marked dialogue and scenes to be cut (often large chunks) and wrote down notes for parts that should be rewritten and reviewed. I brought some post-its with me and used those to flag issues at the front of each chapter of what needed to be done.

I felt a bit panicky after that, partly given the sheer scale of work I needed to do and uncertain as to how to go about it.

A major issue that hit me was the number of chapters – a whole bunch of them after chapter 5 – that really were not that relevant to the actual story of the novel as such. They were reasonably good (although needing to be cut) and some I liked a lot. They were about my main characters, but did not directly connect with the plot.

Linked to this, was a problem with pace and progression. So, significant issues. I also had second thoughts about my opening chapter and decided the first scene of that needed to be rewritten.

Having gone through draft 2 in print, I copied that draft and created draft3 on my laptop and started the process of changing. This was difficult and slow – and demanding on the old noggin. I did 10 chapters down there and three more after I came home.

It has definitely been worth it and I feel good about the changes. I have significantly cut my wordcount on each chapter, cutting large sections of dialogue. Other chapters have been significantly rewritten. I did not axe the general chapters I was concerned about, but instead cut them back and linked them more directly with the plot.

Chapter 14 (of 88!) next.


About Cormac O'Keeffe

I've written a novel. And, it's going to be published. This April. Mad, or what? It's entitled 'Black Water' and is a crime novel set in Dublin's gangland, along the evocative Grand Canal. This blog is about that bumpy journey, which is about to get really exciting. You'll also find some photography on this blog, particularly snaps that relate to my novel, much of it centred along the canal. There are also some reviews, both fiction and non-fiction, many of them published in the Irish Examiner, a daily national newspaper in Ireland. I work as security correspondent there and have specialist interests in crime, drugs, policing, the justice system, communities and human rights. Both my personal life and my professional life have fed into my novel, or, rather, have been poured into it. My novel was granted a literature bursary by the Irish Arts Council in September 2014 and my journalistic work has won multiple awards from the Law Society of Ireland over many years, most recently in 2015.
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5 Responses to Digging my way through draft 3

  1. itsme says:

    Just published my first book on non-fiction. In my personal experience, finishing the book was a big milestone. The frustrating thing was that editing took a lot longer than I expected. This is particularly because editing is a tedious task. It takes a lot of focus and discipline. Writing is a lot easier. So don’t be discouraged. Editing is essential to turn your writing into a high quality work. Good luck.

  2. Don’t throw away the bits you’ve removed. You may be able to use some of these as short stories to help publicize the book when it comes out. JJ

  3. CJ O'Keeffe says:

    Thanks itsme and jj. Congrats on publishing your first book itsme – must be great feeling.
    I feel i have a long way to go and that I have a number of big decisions to make on plot/characters/pace etc.

  4. Well done Cormac – and you’re right, it’s great to see the work in print, makes it more concrete. And yes, the novel is a bit of a beast to rework, but each layer gets you closer to the magic! Then all you have to worry about is attempting to do it all over again!!! Louise

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