Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Secrets Laid Bare

Really? Was it really only five months ago I was doing this for Swan Song


Thus begins the author's edit of Secret Order of the Literati. It's far shorter than Children of Lir: 79,100 (293 pages) to CoL's 123,000 (308 pages). CoL is heavier on word count for the pages because there's more descriptive. Secret Order is faster-paced, so more dialogue and line breaks.

The editing process for this one is very different. For the first time ever, I've written a book so complex I require flip chart paper and an assortment of multicoloured sticky tabs to figure it out.

I always have been, and undoubtedly always will be, a 'pantser'. Someone who writes by the seat of their pants, without thinking too far ahead in the plot (which would make me a 'plotter').

Usually this works really well for me. But this time, the book is so fast-paced, and involves so many inter-related characters, I've slightly lost myself. The action was all happening a little faster than I could think about it, so I'm having to go back and make sure that I've got a grip on everything.

I have three revision sheets on the go:

  1. Character details. That's the one below with all the sticky tabs. Making sure a character doesn't have green eyes on one page and blue on the next. Jotting down details about them and making sure I have a continuous reference for how to spell names and places. 

  2. The sheet after that is a timeline. The plot has chronology craters wide enough to warrant 'Please mind the gap' signs in flashing neon lights. It was more important to get the action down in whatever order it came to me than to decide whether it made sense in the grand order of things. Because the story follows several different characters, it's not always going to work in a linear time frame, but you can't go having someone murdered one minute and down the shops the next. This isn't a zombie novel.

  3. Finally, my WTF? page. This is where I can chalk up any questions that come to mind whilst reading through. Any dangling threads that the kitten of literary destruction can bat at to unravel the entirety of the plot. I can't stop to ponder each WTF bullet-point as I go, otherwise I'd lose the train of the novel, but these are things I need to find answers for somewhere along the line.

It's not going too badly. I've just hit the 100 page mark. Entering the in-between territory. I tend to remember writing the beginnings and endings of my books quite well, but the bits in between sometimes feel like someone else wrote it. That game where you draw the head, fold the paper, someone else draws the body, etc. You only really see the full picture at the very end, when you unfold everything in the edit. So it does start to feel like a voyage of self-discovery.

So far, I'm happy with it. I guess I wonder whether I've introduced too many characters, but it seems to be holding together. I think people nowadays are more comfortable with multi-character books. It's also interesting for me, as this is the first third-person novel I've completed since Lucid - which was the first novel I ever wrote. Seems strange that over the past eight years I've strongly favoured first-person.

I think because it's third-person, you can, as a writer, feel slightly more detached from the story. I was so hell-bent on writing it, that I don't think I've had time to sit back and enjoy it until now. Through editing, I'm starting to see things in it that I really like. Even made myself laugh at one point, which is a good sign. I'm nervous about letting anyone else see this one because I'm hoping to pin two more books on the end of it. If it's a flunk, it's a flunk. But I'm starting to hope it's a goer. 


  1. Love, love, love that you have the wherewithal to share the process with your readers! I'm too busy yet keeping all the pages from fluttering away into the void to step back and assess... getting there! :)

  2. Thank you :)

    For me, it's sort of like therapy. Sometimes writing gets a bit intense, or I get bored. Blogging about it helps me to organise my thoughts, and feels like a reward when I pass a milestone.

    Best of luck holding down those pages :)

    (Anyone reading these comments, check out Margaret's excellent website: www.margaretpinard.com)