Ah, the first blog of 2014, and only nearly two months in…! Okay, so things have been rather busy recently, but, hopefully better late than never, here’s a little update on what’s been going on…
A bit on the play to start. Based on the novella of the same name by bestselling crime novelist Peter James, it opened at the Dartford Orchard in January and is now doing a UK tour. As with pretty much every show I’ve worked on, there were twists and turns in writing the music (a.k.a. many, many rewrites), but I’m pleased with how it turned out and really happy to have been a part of it. I’ve seen the finished show twice now and really enjoyed it both times. The script and story goes from very funny to very chilling (it’s okay, I can compliment that part because I didn’t write it) and the cast are brilliant. If anyone’s interested in going, here are the tour dates!
So, the book. Since mid November, armed with extremely helpful notes from my agent (Nelle Andrew at PFD), I’ve been spending most of my time redrafting Tainted Earth. The basic story arc hasn’t changed, but I’ve been focusing a great deal on (hopefully) improving the characterisation and world building. The other thing I’ve been doing is cutting unnecessary bits out.
It dropped about 20,000 words in total and we’re talking whole chapters in some cases. It was painful (I really liked one of those chapters *sob*), but I think the book, as a whole, reads far better for it.
I’d had quite a long break from the story before redrafting this last time and it’s amazing how obviously some of the superfluous bits stood out on rereading. Time helped to distance myself from it and that break was invaluable. One of the most useful things I’ve ever learnt about redrafting (anything, shows included), is to try and approach the existing draft as if it had been written by someone else. You need to be objective and critical. Of course you feel an emotional attachment to something you’ve spent your blood, sweat and tears writing – but if you’re too precious about it it can blinker you to seeing what needs to be improved (or in my previous draft’s case, removed!). Nelle’s notes really helped with seeing the problems too. Feedback from other people is pretty much essential, especially on later drafts when you’ve read a story so many times that the words seem to lose all shape and meaning…
[On a side note here, criticism of something you’ve worked hard on can be really, really tough to hear from someone else – but if the person giving it knows what they are doing, there is almost always a good reason behind it and that reason is usually fixable within the piece, if you’re prepared to work at it. It doesn’t mean your whole work – or even you (which sometimes it feels like) – are rubbish. When I’m told I need rewrites, I usually spend a day feeling bummed out about it, then the next morning I wake up wanting to find a way to fix the problem. Everything I’ve ever worked on has got better through receiving honest feedback. I think theatre has been good training in that regard – nothing is safe if it doesn’t work in rehearsals!]
So, where am I at now? Well, after some more notes and feedback, I sent the final version of the latest book draft to Nelle yesterday morning. She’s been really helpful and encouraging, and it looks like it’s now at the stage where she’ll be taking the book to publishers (eeeek!). I’m not sure where things will go from here, but I feel grateful to have reached this point at all, and to have had the input of someone like her on the manuscript. We shall see, I suppose…!
To end on an especially fun note, here’s a picture of the latest full draft I printed out.
It’s so much paper, it doesn’t even fit in one folder. Now, imagine proof reading all that. See, er fun 😉
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Don’t worry, it’s recycled paper, so at least it was an eco-friendly gigantic proof read.