I have just finished a draft of my novel, Identity. I suppose it’s a second draft although the process to get this far has been a bit convoluted. As mentioned in a previous post, I tend to write very short, then make it longer as I go through and rewrite.

With this book, it’s the first time I’ve used a method or a structure. From the start I wanted it to be a page-turning detective novel, so I had a basic outline plan. This was culled from various sources which all seem to agree on the fundamentals. Start with action, have some event that drives the plot forward around or before the 25% mark. Then a sequence of events escalating in tension, before the climax at around the 80% mark or later. That leaves about 20% or so for the denouement.

Another new thing that I’ve done is a proper red-penning exercise. Over a five day retreat I went through a paper copy of the whole book. Everything from simple typos to major structural problems got highlighted. I didn’t fix anything, just marked it and moved on. Then, when I was back home, with distractions and family life around me, I could work through them one at a time. Sometimes I literally fixed one single problem, sometimes I even read the next red mark before going out shopping so I could work out how to fix it. Other times, I was able to spend a solid hour or two going through and knocking them off.

This was something I learned from a previous Arvon course. Treat each mark on its own, give it enough time to fix, whether it’s changing a word, rewriting a sentence, or in some cases adding hundreds of words to link the story together. Then move on to the next one.

So, that’s where I’m at now. I’ve done something very controversial in writing circles – I’ve given the manuscript to my wife. Some published authors advise against this at all costs, others rely heavily on their spouses for a first opinion. Once it gets past her, I’ll probably put it out for beta reading before starting the whole agent/publisher game.

My wife has very strict instructions not to edit. She will highlight any obvious mistakes but that will be it. I’ve learned from having my work edited that it’s a very personal thing. On a Roman short story I was working on, one editor praised the historical detail, while the next rejected it as not having enough detail. So I’ve made the decision that the next person to give it a proper edit will be one who has a contract to offer. Otherwise, I’d just be going to and fro with no real direction.

So that’s where I’m at now. I’m feeling a bit weird as I’m waiting for Eleanor to finish reading and then split my time between promoting this, editing the Fifth Warrior, maybe editing the Busy Pagan, and thinking about what’s new to write! Hopefully soon it’ll be rewrites and contract negotiations!

Finally, soon I’ll be asking for beta readers. I just want a few people to read it and give me a book review. Not an in-depth edit, or multi-page dissertation on its strengths and weaknesses, just what you’d put on Goodreads or Amazon!


  1. A good method, I think. I am writing a crime novel, slightly autobiographical in concept, and I am generally following that scheme. It is a new approach for .me.

  2. Hi Linda

    I think it’s a very good thing to see the book printed out on paper, double spaced with big margins. Then you can go through it with a red pen. Some strange alchemy occurs and you can catch way more problems than scanning through on the screen!

    Thanks for your comment.

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