My writing goes through many drafts before I’m ready to show it to anyone. After all, as Roald Dahl said, ‘good writing is essentially rewriting.’ I’ve eased up on this in my workshops with other writers because with them I’m in a safe environment where our goal is to help each other create, but everyone else has to wait a long time before they’re allowed a peek at my work.
I began Running on the Roof of the World on an MA, alongside feedback from my creative writing tutors and peers. By the time my agent read it, the book had already been through eleven drafts (and it was about to go through many more).
Starting book two without that same MA support and safety net was scary, but after finishing one book I knew I was equipped with the tools to write another, which made it liberating too. Step by step, I finished a messy first draft and shaped that into a story.
Now I’m at the stage where I want to ensure my writing is the best it could possibly be, before I share it with my publisher. I’m editing, editing and editing.
Throughout this process I’ve written myself lists as reminders of everything I know and am learning. This one is inspired by children’s author, Steve Voake.
Ways to Make your Writing Sing
1. Are the verbs doing the hard work they should be? For example, ‘he grabbed the keys,’ is more effective than ‘he quickly picked up the keys.’
2. Are there unnecessary filter words? ‘Tom slams his fist down,’ is often more immediate than ‘I see Tom slam his fist down.’
3. Show don’t Tell. Allow the reader to feel what the character is feeling. Instead of saying that she feels shy, describe the body language or movement that might demonstrate it.
4. Is every sentence revealing something about character or moving the story forward? Unintentional repetitions?
5. Use the Active, not Passive voice. In an active sentence the subject is doing the action: ‘John chases Paul.’ In a passive sentence the subject is acted upon: ‘Paul is being chased by John.’