Posted in Book Stuff, Writing Life

Draft 10

I’ve been reading a lot and writing a lot and thinking a lot–but not blogging about it. The reason is that I’m hard at work on the last draft of the last book. I haven’t yet received my editor’s notes, but I wanted to take advantage of her being away for a couple of weeks to read through the ms on my own first. Having done that, I decided to have a first pass at revision, knowing in general what she was after and having gauged my own reactions after the ms had been laid aside a good while.

I’ve been working long hours, spending time, lots of time, in picking out the right word or phrase where the wrong one had jumped out during my reading. I’ve also been spending a lot of time on one particular aspect of the novel, which has been a thorn in my side since the beginning.

It doesn’t amount to a lot proportionately, maybe 15-20 pages scattered throughout, but it’s immensely important to the psychology of the novel. It can’t be cut, but it’s a challenge to get right, putting something essentially non-verbal into words that don’t sound kitschy or purply or incomprehensible.

I’ve tried a number of failed approaches, like Edison’s light bulb, not 10,000 of them (his non-working bulbs), but enough. And I hope this time I’ve got it.

When I’m done with this go-round I should have time to take a break before getting the notes, and then with her notes in hand can have another look at what I’ve done and make further changes.

I’ve read How Fiction Works, Persuasion, Ali Smith’s The First Person and Other Stories, and am currently reading a book of crime fiction, but at the end of the day am too exhausted to say anything very intelligent. I hope it’s all going into the draft!



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

11 thoughts on “Draft 10

  1. I hope you’ve got it too! I’m not nearly as experienced as you with drafts and revisions, but I’m also on draft 10 or thereabouts (I expect more). What was a one-liner from my agents is turning out to be months of work – thinking and writing. I had no idea the process could be so minutely exhaustive, so if you don’t mind my saying so, I am quietly pleased to know that others – and particularly published others like yourself – go through the same process. Hope it all turns out for the best for you!

  2. I want to know how you keep your spirits up with endless revisions. I have always found with academic books – which you do revise but thankfully only once normally before printing – that the more times I have to go back to a piece of work and change it, the more I hate it and resent the process. How on earth do you keep your patience for TEN revisions??

  3. Yes, I think someone should write a self-help book on how to be patient and good to yourself while going through seemingly endless revisions! But I found this an encouraging post to read. And I love the reference to Edison’s 10,000 light-bulbs. I always love happy endings (especially when they come after a long struggle).

  4. Exciting times! A lot of hard work, but revision can also be such a wonderful moment – suddenly out of the exhaustion, you can say, “yes, that’s it!” That can be such a wonderful instant. I’ve just recently bought The Singing Fire and The River Midnight. Cannot wait to read them in anticipation of your newest coming out.

  5. Litlove, that’s a good question. I actually enjoy the process of revision and am more engaged with the ms with each draft because I find that there is so much momentum behind it. However…patience isn’t my best virtue. Sometimes I think writing was sent into my life to test it. What I find difficult is the shock of finding out that what I thought was a finished or nearly-so ms needs a lot of work. Finding that out again and again feels like I get knocked down and have to pull myself up a lot. It’s painful and it resonates with seemingly unrelated experiences that add energy to the level of pain, which would be quite sufficient on its own. There’s a lot of fear that has to be overcome each time, fear of failing, of succeeding, of change, of going deeper, of being inadequate to the task, of being foiled by circumstances outside my control to name a few. What drives me through it is the need to write that particular book in the way the subject and characters deserve. I get pulled out of myself into that aim and my spiritual connection is essential to that process.

  6. Pete, I’m so glad it feels encouraging. I think you hit an important point there: being good to yourself. Patience falls into a subcategory of being good to yourself. Giving yourself time–isn’t that a wonderful gift? And we could probably all use some coddling along the way, most of us a lot more than we usually allow.

  7. Michelle, thanks so much. I hope you enjoy them! And that “yes that’s it” is really the reward. There’s nothing like it. Except maybe other people saying it, too. 🙂

  8. I always like working on revisions when I was doing academic writing. It WAS a lot of work, but it was fun to think about the material in a new way and to see new possibilities in it. It always felt easier to revise material already in existence than to have to write it down for the first time. I hope your revisions continue to go well!

  9. Thanks, Dorothy! So far so good. Even at this late stage, I’ve made significant changes that don’t involve a lot of writing in the number of words, but threading through another aspect that heightens everything.

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