Diary of a Newbie Novelist

By JaneIsaac Diary of a Newbie Novelist, Submissions Comments Off on Diary of a Newbie Novelist

Mid Jan. 2011

At a recent launch of the new James Bond novel ‘Carte Blanche’ Jeffery Deaver read out a page of narrative he had written for his next book. Like most of his writing, it sounded gripping, compelling, a real page turner. Then he read out his re-write of the same passage. It consisted of a couple of sentences. We all laughed, applauded heavily, but it left its mark; most writing is re-writing, honing our work to get the message right.

Rosamund Lupton, author of the debut 2010 UK bestseller ‘Sister’ (well worth a read by the way), recently spoke of the importance of her editor. How she keeps her ‘on track’ with her current book. As Newbies, most of us don’t have the luxury of editors to call on. We re-write, try to make every word count, but how do we know if that is enough? It appears that it is difficult enough for an established author, so how do we approach it?

Many of us ask friends to read our work, family even. Another pair of eyes can add so much. But how objective can they really be? My husband is my harshest critic but, having discussed plot lines with him before, during and after writing, asking him to read the book in parts, then later in its entirety (when it is not even a genre he chooses to read), and still expecting an objective view is probably asking a bit too much.

Some turn to writing groups for reviews of their work. Unfortunately, in my area they meet in the daytime, so this was not an option for me. Needless to say, when I submitted my completed novel for consideration it was in the best possible condition – I had checked and re-checked grammar, spelling, plotlines etc. to the best of my ability.

A good Agent will pick up a manuscript and help the writer to turn it into something marketable, something to submit to a publishing house. You might call my book a rough diamond, waiting to be cleaned up. So it was with trepidation that I opened his first editorial email.

The first tranche of editorial notes were general. Looking individually at my characters, he advised me to write a biog. for each one and go back through the book to ensure there are no contradictory factors. Then my plotlines – he suggested areas where I may extend them. As I had, in retrospect, decided to write the book as the first of a series, I needed to expand my main character slightly. Although it sounds major, these were really all quite small issues in the context of 80,000 words.

Basically, this was an expert pair of eyes, somebody familiar with the thriller genre, helping to improve my work. But was it all correct? Writing and reading are subjective. This is one opinion. How much should I take on board, and how much should I change?…


Jane Isaac is very much a Newbie, she doesn’t even have a website yet (one day…) and with a day job, a family and a very demanding black Labrador, she squeezes her writing into every spare moment she gets. Join her on the rocky road from pen to publication – hopefully!

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