When I began another novel recently, I just wanted to get to the end of the first draft.   Once I got the material down on paper, I believed, the rest would be easy.   I managed six chapters, then had to stop and return to my first novel.  

Having recently gone back to the new novel and cut much of the original story, I’m beginning to think that ongoing revision is perhaps more important than completing the initial draft.   Obviously, there are limits to revising a story as you go; it’s a bit like the first coat of painting.  You need time to evaluate it.   However, I think reading through a week’s work with critical eyes is no bad thing, even if it means delaying the completion of the draft. 

See a list of revision tips. 

The story so far… Dawn is a clinical psychologist who has lost her license and spent a few years in prison for manslaughter.   She has no recollections of the event and believes she killed her former boyfriend after he subjected her to a series of subtle but menacing mind games.  Dawn’s father, however, suspects his daughter might be innocent and launches his own investigation into what really happened. 

Dawn is now rebuilding her life in a secluded Dorset coastal town.  Soon after her arrival, she begins to think that someone is watching her.   The events that follow trigger off flashbacks of a past event in her early childhood, leading her to danger.

Read a sample:

Father’s viewpoint.

Dawn’s viewpoint.

From chapter Five of Hidden Truths, a psychological thriller.  

After Bill rang off, I remained in my spot by the rockery, my shoulders and back aching still. Several houses down, a barbeque was under way, the raucous laughter travelling across the neighbouring gardens and merging with my own churning thoughts.  I’d always had reservations about Dawn moving to the cottage, but until two evenings ago she’d shown signs of settling in her new surroundings, going as far as to announce her plans to set up an online business selling greeting cards.  Her lack of bitterness, in particular, never failed to impress me, considering she had lost virtually everything.  Still, I often worried about her state of mind and the possibility of further memory blanks, but I’d spoken to her most days since her move to Dorset and she had always sounded lucid to me.  Not a hint of anything amiss until Friday evening. 

I made a mental list of the incidents so far…Dawn certain that someone had followed her up the cliff to the cottage…the two reading lamps coming on…the phone call from the unknown woman…the continuing feeling of someone trailing her through the resort from the coast to the bakery to the ATM machine.  If Dawn was correct, the person responsible had entered her bedroom and altered the timer setting.  And not only that.  They’d hung around on the cliff path on Friday evening, discreetly making their way up to the cottage after Dawn and waiting in the vicinity while she went in.  It was an unusual set of behaviour, not the type I would expect from a group of locals opposed to the presence of a person convicted of manslaughter in the town.  Worse, the preoccupation with the timer switches, along with the access to the unlisted phone number, suggested that the culprit was familiar with the cottage.  They were playing mind games with Dawn, it seemed.

Pippa tells me I worry too much.  Bill says I need to let go, chill out and tune in. Or to fizzle and melt, as he once put it.  Possibly, they’re right, but I can’t help worrying when it comes to Dawn.  She’s my only daughter, my surviving child, living alone in an isolated country lane, unable to recall a single detail of one of the most significant events in her life while an unknown person – possibly the woman who rang earlier – follows her around at a distance. 

Less than twenty-four hours ago, I’d made a decision to stop trying to prove Dawn’s innocence.  To let go and chill out and fizzle and melt.  Now, old questions and doubts came flooding back.  I admit I didn’t have a shred of evidence to support my theory, only a nagging feeling that the police and forensics had overlooked a clue of considerable significance. 


2 thoughts on “The Writing Process

  1. I, too, have started a new novel, serious and dramatic rather than the malevolent mystery and suspense thrillers i usually write. And in starting this new piece I took the same approach as you: write, edt, review, revise and THEN continue to write. Perhaps thinking I should model myself after Flaubert (rather than Raymond Chandler) I was hoping to achieve a certain perfection of word and phrase, wishing to continue only when everything prior was ideal enough to continue.
    I have a complete outline and settings and factual info. I wrote about 3000 words. And then stopped. This new methodology was so foreign to me that I lost track, I lost focus, I lost the impetus.
    I hung back, laid off of it. I recently re-read my notes and outline only, trying to re-acquire the spark that created the desire to tell this story. I feel like i have to go back to my old style of writing: crash and burn, take no prisoners, and then set the son of a gun through the four or five draft process of skimming, filtering, editing, and re-writing.
    I certainly hope you find your way.

  2. Thanks for commenting. Novel writing a long and complicated process and all manuscripts are different. When I wrote my first novel, I used to rush through drafts without stopping to revise. Since then, I’ve grown more analytical about the plot.

    Good luck with your novel writing. I’m sure the best approach is the one you find most benefitial.

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