In the run-up to Christmas, I read my first draft of the upcoming fourth Anna Scavolini novel, Women Who Kill, from beginning to end. This is always the stage I dread the most, because it’s the point at which I get a proper sense, for the first time, of just how much work I have ahead of me in terms of knocking it into shape.
As I suspected, the draft is a bit of a mess, but far from unsalvageable. I’m going to be making some pretty substantial changes both to the structure and the way the plot unfolds, but I already have a fairly decent idea of the shape the new and improved version is going to take, and have amassed a pile of notes that I’m currently sorting into some semblance of order.
All told, I suspect it’s in no worse shape than the previous book in the series, The Shadow Men, was at this stage. It too required substantial rewriting, including an almost complete rethink of the first half. This time, the problems are more evenly spread throughout the manuscript, which, from a revision standpoint, has both downsides and upsides. One obvious downside is that no one part is likely to escape unscathed from the almighty red pen, but, on the other hand, I’m unlikely to find myself contemplating a complete rethink of half the plot.
The next stage will be to write a new (and hopefully brief) outline, after which I’ll knuckle down with the writing of the second draft. With previous projects, this has tended to be the stage where I make the greatest strides towards the novel’s final form. The first draft is invariably an opportunity to make mistakes, secure in the knowledge that it’ll never see the light of day. Once I’ve figured out, through a lengthy process of trial and error, how NOT to write it, I can start over and do it properly. By contrast, the third draft tends to be more of a final polish, tightening up the prose and fixing any remaining minor niggles and inconsistencies.
At least, that’s the theory.
I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get Women Who Kill into a fit state to be published before the end of the year. And, as mentioned in the previous newsletter, I also have a very rough outline for what, assuming all goes to plan, will be my next book after Women Who Kill. My most optimistic hope would be to have a first draft of it completed as well before the end of the year, but I’m not going to make any firm commitments at this stage. It all depends on how smoothly things go with redrafting Women Who Kill.