For me, the least enticing part of writing a book is re-writing. But I also know that it is a hugely important part, if you want the book to be the best it can be. I accept it as a necessary evil. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t put it off for as long as humanly possible!
Seeking First-Draft Feedback
I had feedback on my first draft of The Ark from three trusted readers and fellow writers: Amanda Curtin, Robyn Mundy and Richard Rossiter. Richard was the supervisor of my PhD, and thus played a major role in helping me to shape my first novel A New Map of the Universe. He also gave me great (and rather harsh) feedback on my second novel Whisky Charlie Foxtrot.
In my acknowledgements I mentioned that upon first reading he had asked me ‘Why is Charlie such a dickhead?’ It turns out that lots of people read the acknowledgements and Richard is now slightly infamous. Joking aside, he is an amazing mentor and I feel so lucky to have had his support.
Here I am with my son, and Richard and his mascot, Molly the wonder dog, at his beautiful home-away-from-home (and sometime writing retreat I’ve had the privilege of enjoying), near Margaret River:
Amanda edited A New Map of the Universe, and gave me ongoing feedback on Whisky Charlie Foxtrot. She brings both her writing talent and twenty years editorial experience to the process and I trust her judgement absolutely. Robyn has also been a long-term reader of my work and part of my writing trio for Whisky Charlie Foxtrot. I feel very lucky to have such trusted insightful first readers who understand me and my work so well.
Here are Robyn and Amanda, with fellow WA author Lynne Leonhardt, celebrating the launch of Amanda’s second novel Elemental.
Feedback from other writers is invaluable, but I also like to suss out ‘garden variety’ readers. Because this book is speculative fiction, (set 30 years from now), I wanted to run it past someone who reads in the genre: enter my friend ‘The Sturmanator’. He gave me tonnes of new insights, and from a very different perspective to the rest of my readers.
I think it’s important to have both male and female beta-readers, and from a variety of age-groups. Because I think The Ark will appeal to younger readers than my first two books, I was really keen to run it past someone from Gen Y to get their perspective. But in typical Gen Y style, that dude never got back to me!
The feedback from my first-draft readers was that while the book had tonnes going for it, it needed some major restructuring. Restructuring is a writer’s worst nightmare. It involves the chasing up of a bazillion pesky little details that are now in the wrong spot. As a result, I put off the rewriting for almost a year. Yes, I know that’s a very long time.
Instead of rewriting my book, I started a blog, set up a Facebook page, and entered the vortex known as Twitter. Did I mention Goodreads and Pinterest? Yes, I also had a good old suck on those crack pipes. Though none of this was wasted time, there’s really no point being all over social media like a rash if you don’t have a book to promote.
So eventually, I had to return to the main game. I restructured the book. It was slightly painful but nowhere near as bad as I thought. When I knuckled down it only took me a few weeks. Lesson learnt! (Maybe).
Second Draft Feedback
Another draft means more feedback is required. The main job in round two is to catch any of the floating details I missed in my restructure. This was done by another writer, SA Jones, and two other readers, my lovely supportive friends Jim and Katie. They reported back with minor things that required very little work. Bless them. I’m proud to say I got straight onto it.
Usually, after two rounds of edits, I’d send my book off to a publisher, and they’d assign me an editor to work with for further polish. But because I am self-publishing, I had to find this person myself. I chose Susan Midalia, who came highly recommended by many people I trust and she was a joy to work with.
Happily, Susan told me my manuscript really didn’t need all that much work. Music to my ears! Mostly, the problems she highlighted were versions of problems which had been identified by my previous test readers and which I thought I had fixed, (obviously not completely successfully).
For example, every single person that read the manuscript of The Ark told me that though the main action was in the bunker, they wanted more information about what was going on in the outside world. No matter how much I put in, those dang readers wanted more, and Susan was no exception.
The wonderful thing about working with Susan, is that as well as telling me what wasn’t working, she gave me suggestions on how I might fix things. That was such a gift because at that stage, I was all out of ideas, let me tell you.
There’s only one stage left of my editing process: copyediting, in which the awesome Deb Fitzpatrick will examine my manuscript with a microscope, honing in on the tiny details everyone else has missed.
After that, The Ark will be practically perfect in every way, and ready to make its way out into the world: huzzah!
The Ark will be released on September 19th. Be cooler than all your friends by signing up for a sneak preview.