On Monday evening, I reached the end of my current novel – and it felt like I had reached the end of a long tunnel in which I’d been stuck for ages. Out of interest, I looked back at the various drafts of this story, and the dates when I started each one.
I first started it in November 2011 - 28th November, to be exact. By the middle of March 2012, I had got to Chapter 13, but although I liked my characters and some of the scenes, the story itself wasn’t working. For one thing, I gave the heroine a broken ankle in Chapter 8 which proved to be far too restricting for the rest of the story.
So between March and May 2012, I rewrote from Chapter 8, and got to Chapter 14 this time. However, I still wasn’t happy with it. To me, it read like ‘How they met and fell in love’ with not much more than that, apart from far too much internal agonising.
Back to Square One – or, in this case, Chapter One. Three months later, August 2012, I’d got to Chapter 11, but I was floundering again, even after two and a half re-writes. I put it to one side for a couple of months (can’t remember what I did in the meantime!), came back to it in October and added 4 more chapters. By this time, I was ready to delete the whole thing!
Instead, I did the next best thing, put it on the back burner, and started a new story (Irish Inheritance) which took me from November 2012 until May 2013 to write, and then another 3 months to edit, before I submitted it to my publisher in August 2013.
With a big sigh, I turned my attention back to the story that languished among my other documents, and decided it needed a thorough overhaul. Instead of the heroine going up to the English Lake District for a short break, I decided she was going up there for a location shoot for her new TV drama series. At least that breathed a little more life into it, and by January this year I’d actually got past the dreaded Chapter 13/14 sticky patch which had stopped my earlier drafts. I even had a title for it, ‘Different Worlds’.
Then, once I’d completed the edits for ‘Irish Inheritance’, my publisher suggested there was an opportunity for a spin-off story about Charley (the heroine’s best friend). My first reaction was, “I’ll think about that once I’ve finished this story,” but the next day the ‘what ifs’ started. What if I move this story to Ireland instead of the English Lake District? What if I change the heroine’s name to Charley? Once I started thinking about it, I realised it was possible, and worked out where in Ireland it would take place, and how some of the other characters from ‘Irish Inheritance’ could come into the story.
The upshot was – yes, back to Chapter One again for another stab at this story that somehow would not let me go. A few chapters into the rewrite, I started thinking about a title. Maybe it needed ‘Irish’ in the title again. ‘Irish Intrigue’ sprang to mind. This meant I had to do a lot more work building up the ‘intrigue’ part of the story.
Nine months later (yes, rather like a pregnancy LOL), I’ve finally reached the end of this draft (actually on Monday, November 24th, just 4 days before my deadline of November 28th, 3 years since I first started it). I’ve lost count of which draft it is!
Of course, this isn’t really ‘the end’. I have a lot of work still to do, especially with the sections I’ve highlighted in various places. These highlights mean everything from ‘this sentence sucks, rephrase’ to ‘more info/explanation needed here’ to ‘big gap needs filling here'. But at least I have a story that has a beginning, a convoluted middle, and an end. There were times when I thought I would never ever get to the end of the tunnel.
Major editing will now begin (not least to reduce the huge word count of over 100K!) but getting to the end is a major victory for me. After all, someone (can't remember who) once said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” I now have lots of pages to edit!