Light at the end of the road...


I ended my last blog post, over eighteen months ago, with the words ‘Roll on 2019…’ As many of you will also attest, 2019 seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened to the world, how we work, whom we value, what we look forward to. However, throughout it all, I have continued to write. Since starting my writing journey, I have attended six writing courses, joined two writing groups (and left one) and edited an anthology of short stories by local writers, all the while attempting to write draft after draft of my debut novel. There were times, like when I had all the scenes cut out and spewed across the dining room table, or when I changed the backstory of a primary character from rags-to-riches to riches-to-rags, that I questioned my decisions. Making such dramatic changes could either propel the story forward or recoil it backwards. Would I be following a path through the woods, only to find a dead-end and have to backtrack? In the end I had to trust in the characters and the plot as my guides, and have faith that there would be light at the end of the road.

And indeed there was. The manuscript is currently in its seventh draft and will go to the editors in mid-September. That leaves me a month to tidy a few loose ends, deepen a character motivation here, and elaborate on a setting there. I’m feeling good about the overall story. The end is in sight.

Seven is the magic number...

Seven drafts might seem like a lot to some, and not many to others. I’ve read about Agatha Christie who would imagine a story in her head before dictating the final manuscript out loud, with hardly any revisions needed. Or Ken Follett, who writes the first draft, receives feedback from a few trusted friends, amends and completes with a second draft. For a less skilled, less experienced writer like me, who didn’t really know what to expect from the outset, seven feels more or less right. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I recently came across a Brevity blog by Allison K Williams titled How Many Drafts Must a Writer Draft, with a recommendation that seven is the magic number: a Vomit Draft, a Character Draft, a Technical Draft, the Personal Copyedit, the Friend Read and the Editor Read. So there you have it. I’m attaching the lucky number seven on a keyring to my backpack and I’m marching on ahead.

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