It’s a satisfying feeling typing ‘The End’ on the last page of your manuscript. It means you’ve finished the first draft of a story that began as a vague idea months, maybe years ago. In the case of No Bodies, the second Kent Fisher mystery, the concept and original story date back over 10 years. I only began work in earnest on the current version in April this year, after I left my full-time job as an
environmental health officer. I completed the first draft yesterday when I typed those two words.
But it’s not the end, it’s really the beginning.
The next chapter began when I printed No Bodies, this morning, and filed it in a Lever Arch binder. It will remain inside a cupboard until 3rd October so that I put some distance between us. Then the work begins.
I enjoy revising, rewriting and editing because I can see the improvements straight away. All the
unnecessary words and adverbs primarily, and the detours and diversions that don’t add anything, will be the first to go. This is also where I discover my ‘pet words’. In No Accident, those words turned out to be grey, realise, heads (as in travels) and just. I realised there were just far too many of them, and too many grey areas, as I headed through the revisions.
Then there are the connections that were only in my
subconscious before. Something insignificant in Chapter Two suddenly has great importance later. Relationships take on additional significance and the plot often gains new or
enhanced developments because I’m looking at the whole story for the first time.
After this, the polishing is more about improving the quality – removing words and phrases that jar or don’t work, improving descriptions of people and places, smoothing transitions and making the
dialogue as crisp and natural as it can be. It’s also a chance for me to hone the one-liners, and add a few more, which is great fun.
Then it’s over to an editor, who spots plenty you’ve missed. Advance reviewers also have a knack of spotting mistakes and omissions.
I also have time for some housekeeping in September
Kent Fisher Inventory
While I may only have written two novels so far, I have a large cast of characters, relationships,
settings, and important dates and events. I need to record all this information so I know what people look like and where they live, when a character has a birthday or anniversary, or when someone started a new job. I need to know which pubs are in which locations, and which shops are on either side of the town hall in Tollingdon. And talking of the town hall, I need to know where each
department in the council is located to avoid continuity errors in the future. Then there are the heads of departments, the people Kent deals with and the environmental health team.
I now have a much better idea of what I can and can’t do to promote my work. Through trial and error and reading a lot of articles on the internet, I have a much clearer idea of what matters, what works, and what’s important. That helped me get my first radio interview and first event last week. Both were fun and went well, but I also spotted things I could improve next time.
Sort out my notes
I need to organise the multitude of notes I’ve left on pads, scraps of paper, and in notebooks. They cover everything from snatches of dialogue, ideas for stories, plots and
backstories, people to contact, places to visit for research, and some notes I can make no sense of at all. I probably scribbled those after midnight.
Review my website
I’m constantly trying to improve the website, adding additional information, removing content that doesn’t earn its keep, improving what’s there. While it looks pretty much the same as when I first designed it almost a year ago, the style, slant and content have changed as I’ve learned and grown as a writer.
That’s the beauty of being a full time writer. I have much more time to learn and develop. I’ve visited a custody suite; spent a wonderful afternoon with a care home owner, discussing how to murder residents, inspectors and staff; spent hours on the South Downs to research locations; and met some lovely people, online and in the flesh, to talk about books and writing and reading.
I hope this never ends.
If you want to find out more then please take a look around my website.
If you want to find out even more about the characters and settings, my career in environmental health and many of the humorous scrapes and adventures I had, then you can subscribe to The Tollingdon Tribune, my monthly email newsletter below.
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