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20th May 2014
It’s the 9th of May, 2014. I have finished my first draft of HALF WILD (second book in the HALF BAD trilogy).
‘But?’ I hear you ask. ‘What does “finished my first draft of HALF WILD” actually mean. And does it really matter?.’
Well, it matters on a number of levels (and means a lot to me).
Level 1. I’m well on the way to a complete book.
A walk of a thousand miles (or indeed a walk to the corner shop) starts with the first step. A novel is somewhere between the two, I guess, more of a Lands End to John o’ Groats type of thing and I’m sort of hoping that a finished first draft means we’re around the Lake District (just over half way).
Level 2. I’m well on the way to a complete book (my third).
This is only the third book I’ve ever written. I wrote a book before HALF BAD that is not published, then HALF BAD and now HALF WILD, so I’m still very much a beginner writer. In fact writing HALF WILD has made me realise what a big risk Penguin and all my publishers have taken with me, an unproven writer. Can she even write a second book of a trilogy? Was HALF BAD a fluke? And similar questions must have crossed their minds, I think.
Level 3. I’m well on the way to a complete book and I think the quality is not embarrassingly bad.
I keep my writing private until I feel it’s at a level I want to share without being totally embarrassed by its quality. HALF WILD must have reached that level or I wouldn’t have dared let it out of my front door (I think it’s a gut thing – I like it for the most part). Having said that it’s not all great and it’s not the finished product at all. Certainly in HALF WILD I’ve tried out different approaches/techniques to see what works and what doesn’t, but all the approaches/techniques are at a level that I’m not ashamed of.
Level 4. I can go on holiday.
The first person I sent the HALF WILD manuscript to was my agent, the wonderful Claire Wilson. She read it in a day and said that I shouldn’t be at all worried about sending it out to Ben Horslen, my editor at Penguin (despite Level 3 I am still worried/terrified that the manuscript is rubbish). So the afternoon of Claire’s phone call I sent the HW manuscript by email to Ben. I half expected a phone call back later to say, ‘I’ve started it and am loving it so far.’ (Because I sort of hoped he’d love the first chapter). But nothing.
Saturday – nothing.
Sunday – nothing. And I’m beginning to feel sick that he hates it and I’ve gone to far and the story is rubbish.
Monday a.m. – nothing. I pace the kitchen as tumble weed blows by.
Monday early p.m. – nothing.
Monday late p.m – Ben rings. He says really nice things about HALF WILD. Really nice things. Fabulous. I stop pacing and smile. Jump around a bit (not physically but in my head).
Tuesday – I go on holiday. And I really do go on holiday – no writing, just reading and relaxing.
Level 5. I want to make HALF WILD as good as possible (the editing process begins).
Ben has now sent me his editorial letter which gives (over 13 pages!) his overview and comments about HALF WILD. Most of the comments I agree with. Also he has marked up the manuscript with comments (though I have to admit I haven’t read any of these yet, apart from the ones on Chapter 1, which he does love 🙂 ).
To give you a feel for the sorts of things in the notes here’s a summary of it:-
General nice, complimentary introduction (1 page) before getting stuck into the detail of his issues which come under the following headings:-
1. Motivation (not mine, not Ben’s, but Nathan’s) (3.5 pages!)
2. Nathan’s Gift (sorry, can’t reveal more about that until HALF WILD comes out) (2 pages)
3. Narrative Structure (1 page):-
Recapping – the bane of any book 2 (or indeed 3 etc.) where the reader has to be reminded/told what happened in book 1.
Time and Place (stuff about flashbacks and he does mention ‘some kind of astral plane’ at one point).
4. Characters and relationships (Nathan and Gabriel, Nathan and Annalise, Annalise and Gabriel, various others…)(4 pages)
5. Other Random Questions i.e. baffling bits that have raised Ben’s eyebrows. (1 page)
All followed by a final, closing, cheery paragraph (1/2 page).
Level 6. Money.
I get paid a proportion of my advance on delivery of the manuscript. 🙂
Level 7. Opportunity to remind myself of how much I’m loving all this.
I’m so lucky to have an agent, a great editorial team, numerous publishers around the world and, best of all, readers and fans of HALF BAD. I only started writing 4 years ago (June 2010) and with every passing day I’m more amazed with how well HALF BAD has been received. I’m feeling good about HALF WILD as I think it’s my best writing yet.