Things I Learnt Reading the First Draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’

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A first draft is like good whiskey, it needs to age. You can’t just finish the thing, put a stamp of approval on it and send it out into the world. You need to barrel it, distil it and you forget about it. Yep, forget about it like a girlfriend that broke your heart, forget about it like you’ve forgotten about Phantom Menace, forget about it like… well, you get the idea. Once I finish writing a first draft I try my hardest to forget it even exists at all. I go to the bar, I play pool, I read more books but the single most important thing I do, I start another project.

After I finished the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm, the very first thing I did was start a new project. Now that I’m trying to forget about that, it’s time to crack open the barrel and retrieve Abigail.

Here’s a couple of things I learnt while reading the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm.

  1. Come armed with coffee.
  2. The first draft is always shit. No matter how much I hope that the novel has rewritten itself in my absence, it’s never happened. I expect the worst, from typos to clunky writing, to embarrassing dialogue and logic holes the size of that asteroid in Armageddon.
  3. Lock the door and turn off the phone. I’m only going to get the chance to read the novel from beginning to end for the first time once. For me, this has to be done in one day. It’s one very long day, but that way I can see the flow of the story in one hit.
  4. The first paragraph isn’t needed. This has been consistent for all my books. I spend hours crafting that first paragraph to perfection like a fine artist in the first draft, only to come by a couple of months later with a red pen and kick it out of the novel. First paragraphs in first drafts are almost always never needed.
  5. Cut ten thousand words, at least. If that sounds like a lot, it is. Ten thousand words is roughly forty to fifty pages and probably a week’s worth of work. Right now this novel is on the fat side and I want it lean and mean and precise. Every single word needs to earn its place, every cliff hanger, every joke and every single word needs to earn its place if I want the reader to turn the page. There’s no room for useless words.

What if what I read is bad? See point number 2. IT IS BAD! But don’t cry. Have a beer. Get up tomorrow and rewrite that bastard.

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DAY 65 of ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

Pink Abby

What happens when you realise that your 80,000 word science fiction novel is going to be more like a 150,000 word science fiction monster?

I can tell you exactly what happens. First comes the disbelief. Maybe I calculated the words incorrectly? Which in my case could be very likely considering I can’t even remember a phone number. Nope, I crunch them numbers again and it still rolls in at 150,000 words. In the next stage, comes the panic. And I’m not talking about a little internal flutter of panic. I’m talking about ‘the someone has just told you there’s a spider on your back and you run around the house yelling. “is it gone, is it gone”‘ type of panic.

So after I stopped running around the house yelling ‘is it gone, is it gone,’ I sat down at the typer pulled up my outline and poured myself a drink (and left the bottle on the desk). Now, the only really editing tool I possess, is being able to go through a story and working out exactly what is not needed. I try to work out how to tell as much story in as little words as possible.

Half a bottle of whiskey and three hours later, I managed to trim this behemoth of a story back from the 150,000 word nightmare to a more reasonable 100,000 words. That number is still not exactly a walk in the park, but it’s much easier to achieve. How did I pull off such a task you may ask, or you may not, but I’m going to tell you anyways. It was simple, I deleted all the nouns… I’m kidding, that would be crazy talk. I went back to basics and deleted absolutely every sequence, chapter, or scene that didn’t do one of two things:

1) Advance the plot or,

2) Reveal something new about character.

In other words, I trimmed all the fat. Now I still have another 30,000 words to write to reach that 100,000 word target (which is the most of anything I’ve ever written), and I’m sure there’s going to be other obstacles from now until then, but at least for the time being the crisis has been adverted and the spider my back type panic has subsided.

DAY 46 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

Another Abigail Promo

Finally! Just broke 50,000 words on the first draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’ *cheers*. But still have another 30,000 words to go *sighs*. Those 30,000 words need to be finished in the next fifteen days. There will be tears, booze, violence, me yelling obscenities in the office and hopefully I’ll try and get some writing in there as well.

Here are some highlights from the last week of writing:

1) I’ve finally managed to get the AI powered supercar, K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider into a novel (don’t ask).
2) Writing about the end of the world can be fun.
3) Some mornings I drink so much coffee that I think coffee should probably share credit with me on this book.
4) That the opposite of irony, is wrinkly.

Meanwhile… I’ll be in the office typing away like Angela Lansbury. If no one hears from me in fifteen days, send whiskey.

 

DAY 39 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After a very long search for Abigail’s hero weapon, I’ve finally found a bad boy that would be dangerous, ridiculous and baddass enough to save the world with. This here is the Remington 1740, double barrel pump shotgun. What it really is, is actually two Remington 870’s that some maniac has attached to each other. One ejects to the left of the barrel and the other to the right. I’m sure it’s loud as hell, kicks like Bruce Lee and does more damage than Gary Busey on a coke binge.

DAY 25 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After almost two weeks of rewriting a screenplay and a few other such things, it’s time to get back to The Adventures of Abigail Storm and start pounding out those pages. I  had set myself a deadline of and 80,000 word, beast of a novel by November 9th… then I took two weeks off.

Now my daily word count went from 2000 words a day to 2683 (thanks to the wonderful world of mathematics for working that out). After much consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that is new word count is seriously going to impose on my Playstation time.

DAY 23 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

Here’s 5 things I’ve learnt after sitting at the typer for 5 days:

1. Sometimes there just isn’t enough coffee in the world.

2. Page 1 is never as scary as it sounds.

3. Never read what you’ve written until you’re done.

4. 2000 words a day is sometimes very easy, and at other times it’s harder than watching a Twilight marathon.

5. You never leave the office. You can close the laptop, go do something else but your mind will keep working on those next words.

Current word count is 10,081 of 80,000.

I’m thinking of making the wise investment of a Playstation 4. But I can’t see how that could possibly have an effect on my word count this week… no not at all.

30 WAYS TO KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER

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You know you’re a writer when…
  1. You don’t know how to do anything else
  2. Your back is sore
  3. Your taste in music is awesome and you have a rocking record collection
  4. You can go days without speaking to a single person
  5. Anyone who likes your writing is immediately far sexier than they were before they told you they liked your writing
  6. You spend most of the day staring at the wall
  7. You have at least one unpublishable manuscript hiding in your office
  8. Whenever you’re doing something else, you feel like you should be writing
  9. You never leave the house without a book
  10. You keep telling yourself you need to go to the gym, but to the gym you never go
  11. You drink too much coffee during the day and too much booze during night
  12. You believe stories can change the world
  13. You see people who say ‘I don’t read,’ as Morlocks
  14. You know what the hell a Morlock is
  15. You can convince yourself that laying on the couch, drinking beer and watching re-runs of Miami Vice is just part of your working day
  16. You believe that people who say ‘I would write a book, I just don’t have the time’ should be beaten with a copy of Crime & Punishment
  17. Nobody really knows what you do
  18. Complete strangers pitch you stories to write
  19. You are egotistic and insecure at the same time
  20. You fear going to an accountant
  21. Your favorite place in the world is your desk
  22. Your second favorite place in the world is a bookstore
  23. You fear that reading a bad review is one day going to give you a heart attack
  24. Working from home has lost its appeal
  25. It matters to you where a comma goes
  26. Typos haunt you
  27. You feel guilty about writing
  28. You feel guilty about not writing
  29. People ask you ‘Where you get your ideas from?’ and you tell them there’s a little shop around the corner from your house that sells them
  30. There is absolutely nothing else in the world you would rather be doing than writing

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First published on Murder is Everywhere