On Writing – Second Drafts and Approaches


I am now 65 pages into the second draft of Lawful Evil.

What has been interesting for me is that I am a lot more ruthless with it than the first draft than I have been in previous books. A lot of that comes from experience, an understanding that my first drafts are about getting whatever is in my head onto the page without worrying about it being perfect. Some people do, and that’s okay but for me, having multiple stages allows me to not feel any performance pressure in terms of getting the book to a point where I feel comfortable sending it to the agent, and in turn, making it a viable prospect. I can waste my own time, but I won’t waste yours. We are up against kitten videos and hot and cold running pornography after all, so you need to make sure the work is worth someone’s investment.

The first draft is where I figure out what I wanted to say, I use the story grid to ensure that the work has a progression that meets the expectations of the audience, which is a conversation in and of itself, and also allows me to know the overall shape of the work itself. Within that, first drafts are where I meander, overwrite. Remember playing air guitar (pfft remember I bet you’re doing it right now)? Same principle.

I write in longhand, in pencil because it is something that I find connects me to the work and allows me to approach it from a different area of my brain than typing does. It is comforting but in it’s low fidelity approach, it is portable, easy to pick up and put down. I use A4 lined pads and work through until I am. It is done at a rate of 2 pages a day, but I do work in flurries when time allows so there are extra pages done but the baseline is 2 pages in order to take away the pressure but also to be productive.

It sounds boring, but I look at it like this – on a bad day, it is only two pages. On a good day, you walk away hungry and that builds fortitude and discipline, like saving for a rainy day. The rainy days will come, and I have faced more than my fair share, but as a practice, I have kept writing.

I wait for at least eight weeks before I start a second draft. I do not review it until the notification comes up on my calendar and I read through it, typing and editing it. I aim to remove whatever does not serve the story.

Stories are what I tell. I don’t know if I am any good at them, but I study their structure, read and absorb them, to the extent that I can talk with passion about them. I like to write because it’s low-tech and doesn’t initially rely on anyone else to make them. I have beta readers, an agent and eventually a publisher and editors there, but for the most part, it is just me and the drive to do it.

I view writing as my purpose. The more I’ve aligned my life around it, the happier I have become. Sometimes it makes me appear stoic, even taciturn and perhaps self-obsessed but in truth, it really does make me happy. I cannot say whether I am any good, but the work is something that I can do, and if I don’t have any natural talent, then I can work to the point where there exists the appearance of it. I am ambitious in my goals, but that came about as a desire to do more of what I love. I think writing is magical, it’s introduced me to some wonderful people and those of you reading this are amongst them. I don’t have dreams because you wake up from them, I have goals and they are big ones because it is better to reach high and fail rather than aim low and succeed. I don’t talk about writing as much as I do write, if that makes sense. It is a better balance, much like watching a sport when you could be playing it.

I feel successful because I have written a book before. What I want is more of that, and although it is lonely work, and you sometimes have that fear of missing out, when my work colleagues talk about playing Elder Scrolls in PvP, or going out and I’ve been writing or reading, I worry that there might be something wrong with me. Then I look at what I have achieved in the last few years, see that people from countries all over the world visit here and take the time to like and comment, and it is all worth it.

My ambition is to someday send you links to the listing on Amazon, or tell you that a book of mine is available in bookstores but that is the beginning. Thank you for reading.

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