A third of the way through Mountain of Whispers

Posted on February 19, 2010 (Subscribe to Blog)

Time is marching on and I'm about a third of the way through the first draft of Mountain of Whispers. I'm still on schedule, but since I aim to finish by the end of March, I need to crack on instead of playing LEGO Indiana Jones and Star Wars on the Wii.

I added a Progressometer™ to the right hand side of the website, and if you're really interested you can view a little more detail here (scroll down past the teaser blurb). This is mostly for my own benefit; I find that a constant reminder of how I'm doing (or not) helps me move it along. And giving myself a deadline is essential! I'm aiming to launch around June, and there's a long way to go yet.

"So," I hear you ask, "if you're planning to finish the first draft by end-March, how come you won't be launching until June?"

During the first draft I just write and get the story down in the right order and with all the elements in place. During this process I tend to think of new ideas, or remember things I need to add, and I go back to add them in. So it's a fairly messy process. It's all about the getting the story down. As for the text itself, even though I use a spell-checker as I go (which means I spot typos instantly and correct them) I tend NOT to use a grammar checker (because grammar checkers are useless and annoying). So while my first draft may contain words that exist in the dictionary, I may have used the wrong variation of a word, or a word might be missing entirely. One mistake I made in my first draft of Labyrinth of Fire was to use the word reigns instead of reins – very embarrassing, but luckily it was caught early on! But both words exist in the dictionary and so my simple spell-checker didn't have a problem.

When I reach the end of the draft, the next step is to go through the entire thing again. I read it on the computer because there's often a LOT to alter as I read, whether it's a typo or a badly constructed sentence or a repetitive use of words or whatever. Maybe I just decide that I need to have a little more description here or there... or something isn't clear when read with a fresh pair of eyes... or something just isn't flowing. Whatever it is, I'll correct it. So this second draft is a long process too, although not anywhere near as long as the first. Maybe a couple of weeks at most.

Then I print the manuscript onto paper. I only do this once, but it's necessary because reading something on paper somehow reveals many more typos and issues that weren't previously noticeable on a computer screen. I don't know why this is so, but most writers agree that text is better proofed when printed. I go through with a red pen and read the entire thing again, and then make all the alterations on the computer. By this time I'm pretty fed up with the book!

The next step is to send out the "final" manuscript to two or three educated, literate people willing to proofread it for me. This is not a read-through by people who just like to read; this is a read-through and proofread and overall critique. With Labyrinth of Fire I ended up removing an entire scene and rearranging another – all for the better, but it was something I hadn't really thought to do until it was pointed out by my proofreaders. There was a myriad of other things too, too numerous to mention. But all in all, being proofed by at least two people is essential.

Once again I go through the manuscript making all the suggested corrections. By now I can't stand the book and just want to go bury my head in the sand. But finally I get to a point where I'm "finished" and I upload the files to CreateSpace and order myself a proof. Believe it or not, with Labyrinth of Fire I actually went through this proof book too – yes, I read the entire novel AGAIN. And a good job too, because I found even more things to fix. It's hard to believe so many little bits can be missed four or five times, but it happens.

When the book is finally launched, guess what? Occasionally a sharp-eyed reader will spot something wrong. For all those who have Labyrinth of Fire, look on page 183 and you'll see that Blacknail drives them through a "never-ending plane of lush grass." Did I really say plane? Yikes! I meant plain of course. This has been corrected in my manuscript, so future editions (when I get new stock) will be just a teeny bit improved. There's another bit that was wrong too, a very minor continuity error; again, this has been fixed. And the other day someone spotted something in Island of Fog; Hal's dad was winding the clock and he said it was 7:30 AM. Yet Hal then had breakfast, went to fetch some water from the stream, and had an altercation with Fenton on the way to school... and still arrived at 8 AM. This seems a little tight, so I've altered the text so that Hal's dad says "It's just after seven."

Minor things, but worth fixing. And that's why, when the first draft is finished, it's going to take a further couple of months (at least) to get this book polished to where it's "finished."

Comment by HARI MENON on Tuesday, February 23, 2010...

Looking in after ages, and the first thing I notice is the panel on the right which describes both Island of Fog and Labyrinth of Fire as "The first book in the trilogy, available online now." Are you a Douglas Adams fan by any chance, Keith?

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Tuesday, February 23, 2010...

Whoops! Well spotted, Hari. I changed a few things a couple of days ago and ended up copy-pasting the block of code for the first book and using it for the second... and forgot to change "first" to "second." Fixed now!

Good to hear from you. And yes, I am a Douglas Adams fan! :-)

Comment by BRIAN CLOPPER on Thursday, February 25, 2010...

Loved your first book and will be sending you a large envelope of letters from my students. I read it as a read aloud and we wrote letters to you. I started the second book and I'm also enjoying it. On the back cover of book two, you say advance. Did you mean to say advanced?

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Thursday, February 25, 2010...

Brian, that sounds fantastic! Can't wait! :-)

On the back cover, "advance" is correct — I'm using it as a verb, ie, "to power homes and advance technology." You had me worried for a moment!

I've emailed you my address as requested.

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