Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The creative process...

But first an update about the boob.

This week has not been as good as last week was. There is a haematoma in the chest wound which has had to be drained on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This is either a result of a clot that has cleared, or a symptom of necrosis that would suggest the fatty tissue is dying, which, worst case scenario would mean the DIEP procedure was for nothing.

It may be that the necrosis is only on the fringe of the tissue in which case they can cut it off or if it's minor enough my body will absorb. I should find out tomorrow and hopefully get some definitive answers instead of being in limbo which is where I am at the moment.

But this post isn't about the boob, it's about the creative process.

A writing friend asked me the following today and I went a bit OTT on the response and thought that others may find the information useful so I decided to post it here.

This is what I was asked:


Hey Chris, hope your well - was just wondering,

a. how you went about your reworking of your novel? I've been trawling through mine for months now, i suppose there are no shortcuts?

b. how did you go about sending off the finished one, did you send a cover and 3 chapters to basically a list from the internet? or something more simple?

I remember your novel was a kind of sci fi fantasy wasn't it.

cheers, and hope you get it accepted! My pal suggested that i self publish but id rather go down the old school route first, sounds like your the same.

The following is just about as much information as I can give on how I write and submit my manuscripts:

Evening mate, as well as can be expected tongue

Basically I write it three times (which sounds majorly daunting but it's less and less each time. 

The First Draft 

The first time is basically free association - get it on paper. I work from chapter plans and rough notes and just write, regardless of how bad some of it is at the time, I know there is some good stuff amongst it. This is the part that is fun, let your imagination go wild - be spontaneous, give your characters as much personality and as many quirks as you can.

Once I finish the first draft I leave it for a few days then read it start to finish without taking notes (which is hard at first). This is to try and get a feel for it from a readers perspective and is me focusing more on the story than the quality of the writing. After Ive read it I write down the bits of the story that didnt make sense/add up/get resolved.

The Second Draft

The second draft is where I perfect the story, I dont care about the writing just now - everything I wrote down after reading it gets looked at. If something didnt work for me on the first read through it gets re-worded, trimmed or cut entirely - be brutal. Sometimes at this stage of re-drafting I will get a sudden spurt of inspiration and want to take things in a new direction or add things in. This is great, dont knock it - but put it in a seperate document - if its good enough to go in it can go in after Ive finished editing the original thing.

Once the second draft is complete and the story flows as it should I look at the extra bits I wanted to add and really work out whether or not they can be added in. If they can then I put them in, if they cant they stay in a seperate folder.

The Third Draft

The third draft is where I am concentrating on the writing. I basically do a line edit of every chapter, usually over a couple of weeks and ask myself. "Is that the right word to use there?", "Is the grammar correct?", "Can I make that sentence tighter?" etc etc.

The most important thing on my mind is cutting out things I dont need - I have a bad habit of re-iterating a feeling or emotion in a character more times than I have to. Best advice I can give on self editing is to READ ALOUD! It sounds obscure but it lets you hear exactly how it sounds in your head. Running out of breath? The sentence is too long. Paused when you said that? Needs a comma. Words getting you tongue tied? Stop being clever. (This one is also one of my major downfalls - I seem to do alliteration without thinking about it and it's not until I read it aloud that I realise how ridiculous it actually sounds. Reading aloud also points out where we have words that dont belong)

Once that is all done - I usually have a brandy. I again take a couple of days away from the manuscript and read it again start to finish. I try to do this like I would read someone elses book though this time I sit with a notepad next to me and jot down anything that stops me from reading or makes me read a sentence twice. Hopefully at this stage it isn't often, I tend to find some chapters are worse than others.

One final edit and that is the manuscript DONE!

Finding a Publisher/Agent

Now is the REALLY hard bit. It involves lots of waiting and lots of rejection for reasons you will never know (a bit like my Friday nights but that's going off on a tangent).

The first thing I do is go through the writers and artists handbook and put an * next to publishers and agents that accept the genre I want to submit and also make sure that they take unsolicited manuscripts.

Once I have about 10-15 I look at their websites - if it's not professional looking or sounds a bit dodgy I score it off my list. I find out who submissions get sent to and how they like to receive them. Most people like a cover letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters or 50pp. But not all, give them what they want.

With my first novel I let myself go at this stage and wrote cover letters like I was best friends with these strangers. Surprisingly Blackstone actually asked to see the whole manuscript but they did give me a hard time over the cover letter of all things. You will be judged from the get go on your writing so put the same amount of time and effort into writing the cover letter and the synopsis as you did the novel - you cant have one without the other.

The Submission Package 

There are lots of different 'suggestions' flying around on how to go about writing these documents, all I can tell you is how I write mine.

Submission Letter

Before I write even a chapter plan I write the story in 25 words or less. In a fresh notebook at the top of the page:

"Keiras allies must prepare Kerona to battle the invading Empire while she unlocks the secrets of ancient Draconian artefacts and masters the gift of Power." - 25 on the nose.

I include this line or something very similar to it in my submission letters. It's short & sweet and tells them in a nutshell what they are going to be reading about.

I also include a short bit about my writing background, short stories I've published, comps ive won or been shortlisted for etc. Something that puts a bit of you and your personality into the letter - but don't go overboard.

I also do a bit of homework on the publisher/agent and compare my work to someone they have represented in the past if it is applicable - if it's not don't try to make it so, ask yourself why you are submitting to a publisher/agent who has never represented anyone similar to you before.

I try to keep it short (and usually give it to someone other than myself to proof read). My thought process here is that this will be read by someone who reads all day long - they will be looking to get through a pile ASAP - short and to the point is going to go down much better than them reading a life story.


I seriously struggled with these originally. Basically put in the bare bones of the main plot and any sub-plots that are important to the outcome of the story. No cliff hangers. Period.

Imagine you are in a pub and someone asks you about your book, but they are heading for the door. You have 30 maybe forty seconds to tell them the story start to finish. You mention the main characters and what what their goals are and how they get there. That is exactly what a synopsis is.

I usually aim to do this in less than 300 words - most people want a one page synopsis which is roughly about 500 so it gives you space to play with.

I then give the synopsis to two people and ask them what they think of the idea for the story. If they ask questions about sub plots or character development I tell them, and do nothing.

If they ask questions about the main story, I seriously look at the synopsis and ask myself what has to be added to remove that question from the readers mind. It's all about clarity at this point. I have a limited chance to impress this person - the last thing I want is for them to be confused or asking questions that Im not there to answer..

I them proof the synopsis for spelling/grammar/word choice etc and finally hit save.

I have another brandy - and then bundle it up and send it off.

I usually send them out in sets of five - some publisher stipulate that they don't like this. If that is the case, don't do it.

It's important to bear in mind that I have not had a novel published the 'old fashioned way' (I have self published one of my novels but like you I want it done 'legit') and the only info I can give is how I send my submissions and edit my novel.

That being said, from every set of five submissions I've sent off - someone has always requested the full manuscript - just a case of persevering until they say yes.

Hope that helps,



That response - typed ONE HANDED folks! Oh yes! (Took me ages!)

Hopefully it's useful to some of you out there.

Peace out, Dare to Dream


(I'll keep you posted about the boob) ;)

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