Tuesday, 4 December 2018

From Rachael's Desk - After the First Draft


Welcome to my brand new monthly post From Rachael's Desk! This month it's all about what to do once you've written your first draft.


Congratulations! You’ve written a book and added those magical words ‘the end’ and that achievement alone deserves celebration. Whether you have just taken part in NaNoWriMo or have been writing for many months, the fact that you have finished the first draft is amazing. 

So, go celebrate. Then come back – because even though you’ve written ‘the end’ you’re not finished yet!

Before I became published, this is something it took me a long time to accept. That, and the fact that first drafts are not perfect. I would tie myself in knots, deleting words I’d typed because they were not good enough instead of moving forward with the story. I was convinced I was a rubbish writer because I couldn’t create the perfect paragraph, let alone the perfect story, first time. My first drafts were a garbled mess. 

Now I know better. I know and accept that first drafts aren’t meant to brilliantly crafted pieces of writing. They are simply the process of getting everything from within you, the writer, onto the page. The first draft is merely an assembly of words with which you will create your story later, during the editing and revising process ahead of submission.

Once you’ve accepted that a first draft is not carved in stone, that the words within it can be changed, deleted, added to or moved, it’s time to look at how to deal with that jumble of ramblings which make up your first draft. Here are my tips for turning that first draft into a submission ready piece of writing. All of them apply to whatever genre you write and no matter how long or short.



1.           The first thing you need to do is to step away from the manuscript. Yes, that’s right. Step away. Walk away and don’t look at it. I would suggest at least two weeks, more if you have the time.
Why? Doing this gives you space from the story, from the words that are drafted on you page. It will give you thinking time. When you return to your first draft your mind will be refreshed and the story will appear either new to you.
The time you have given yourself to create distance from the jumble of words that poured on the page will also allow you to see those glaring plot holes you happily skipped over in the first draft.
Whatever you think of it now, good or bad, you must remind yourself it’s still a first draft, or a dirty draft as it’s sometimes called.

2.           Once you’ve taken time away from your story, print out the manuscript. This is something I find really useful as reading the story on the computer screen is so very different to reading it on a printed page. It’s amazing how you can read something on the screen, yet it appears completely different when it’s on a piece of paper. For me it also allows anything from silly spelling mistakes to massive continuity issues to show up.
For best results ensure your printed copy is double spaced so there is plenty of room for notes. It’s also a good idea to have a note book for exploring things you will need to include in the story. If you are anything like me, that note book will have to meet specific criteria! If you have made notes whilst writing your first draft, like time lines, character studies, gather these up. Arm yourself with coloured pens, sticky notes and anything else which will help you pull together the threads within the first draft. This is a time when my desk becomes strewn, even very messy, with colourful sticky notes and pens!

3.           Armed with your printed copy, start reading. Read the full manuscript, jotting down any issues you stumble across either in your notebook or in the margin of the manuscript. Once this is done you can go back and read scene by scene, chapter by chapter, using your earlier notes as reference.
Here are some of the things you need to ask yourself. Does each scene move the story forward? Do your characters achieve their goal? Are there any glaring plot holes – major inconsistency in the story which is totally out of place? Is it possible that you have not made the most of a scene or even missed it out completely? Are there moments when you’ve told the story, now shown it to the reader?
All of these are things to consider when you are reading the manuscript and a notebook comes in very useful.

4.           All those notes made, either on the manuscript or in a notebook will now offer you all the prompts you need as you begin to work on that manuscript. Take it a scene at a time. Ensure that scene counts and above all, moves the story forward.
Do this stage as many times as you feel necessary. Starting each time with a revised print out of the manuscript. There isn’t a right or wrong number of times required to do this. It will depend on you and your story.



5.           Once you are happy you have made the necessary revisions to the manuscript it’s time to read it again. For this stage I find it useful to send the manuscript to my kindle, offering me a new reading experience for the story. Whilst reading it I will check for smaller inconsistencies.
Inconsistencies such as your character suddenly having a change of eye colour. Or a minor character finding themselves with a new name. They sound silly things, but they are so easy to do when you are in the throes of creating your first draft!
Also look again for spelling and grammar errors. They really are the hardest things to find!
One final thing to watch for as you read the end of this reading session, is that all minor threads are stitched up neatly. For instance, the reader will want to know what happened to that minor character which flitted into one of your scenes. You know, the one you had completely forgotten about by the time you reached the end of your story!



6.           Now it’s time to send your manuscript to your critique partner or beta reader if you are lucky enough to have one. Collate your reader’s notes so that you can make any final changes as you once more revise the manuscript.

By now, you will have a well-polished story. A submission that is ready to go to land on an editor’s desk. An editor’s job is to be that magical fresh pair of eyes who will help you make your words into the very best story they can be – which means yet more revisions! This isn’t bad at all. If you are striving for publication and get any kind of feedback from an editor, it is like striking gold. And if you are published, it’s the invaluable advice to ensure your readers will enjoy your new book as much, or even more, than the last book.

It’s also worth remembering that there is not a right or wrong way to revise your first draft, just as there is not a correct number of times to do it. Each writer is different and certain techniques work for some and not for others. This is the way I approach turning my first draft into a manuscript ready for submission, but I always love to hear how other do it!

I’ll be back early in January with another post From Rachael’s Desk, so if there is a writing craft you want advice on, let me in the comments and I will schedule it for 2019.

Rachael
xx

Friday, 3 November 2017

Walking The Wall

This time two weeks ago I was walking - make that slipping and sliding down the Great Wall of China for the final time. And at the end of it we were all presented with a medal.


The whole week was amazing from start to finish. My fellow trekkers were brilliant and we had such fun getting to know one another as we took on the Great Wall. The trek was run by Charity Challenge and the both the UK team members and the local guides made the week, ensuring we were challenged but safe.


 Here we all are - full of laughter on the first morning and that laughter continued all week!


We trekked along overgrown sections of the wall that had us battling to stay on our feet as we went down hill.

Climbed endless and very steep steps up.


Negotiated tricky parts which tested anyone's fear of heights.


Took on the Stairway to Heaven and it's notoriously steep steps which was shrouded in mist - probably a good thing!


Enjoyed fantastic views.


Even being on the wall as the sun began to set.


But most important of all, as a group of twenty eight we raised over £52,000 for British Heart Foundation and I made some fantastic new friends. If only we could do it all over again!

There's still time to support our efforts on my Just Giving page.

Now I'm back to reality and at my desk working on revisions.

Rachael
xx

Thanks to British Heart Foundation's Flicker page of the trip and the use of the photos.





Friday, 13 October 2017

Cover Love

One of the fun things about being a Harlequin Mills and Boon author is all the translated copies of my books that are available and seeing the variations of the covers always makes me smile. Here are some to them.










These are my latest deliveries of author copies.



These Manga copies of A Deal Before the Altar are just fabulous!



Rachael
xx

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Pen Y Fan

Last weekend, my daughter and I did something different. We headed for the Brecon Beacons National Park to walk to the peak of Pen Y Fan, which at 886m is the highest peak in South Wales and Southern England.



We began the long climb up of our 8km walk and I couldn't resist stopping to take photographs - well that's my excuse!



The stone path stretches into the distance as we come to the brow of the first hill but there is still a long way to go.


A rock pile that walkers added to as they passed gave another photo opportunity and a chance to catch  my breath.


Another chance to pause and and look at the stunning view.


Finally we can see the characteristic flat top of our destination - Pen Y Fan.


And the proof that I made it to the top.


After a sit down and time to take in the stunning views we started our way back down.


We had just walked up the hard route to Pen Y Fan and the path we chose to go back down would have been easier, but as I am in training for a trek on The Great Wall of China in aid of the British Heart Foundation it was the obvious choice.



Almost back and time to take in the waterfall.


Finally we reached the car park and were relieved to see an ice-cream van and as we enjoyed a refreshing ice lolly we watched other walkers on the path we'd just come down.


If you would like to sponsor me on my trek in October you can do so here. Thank you!


Rachael
xx


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Conference Time Again!


It's July, which means my annual visit to Romantic Novelists' Association's conference. This year it was home from home for me as it was held at Harper Adams University near Telford, which is an agricultural university. So what did I seek out other than fabulous writing friends and books. Cows of course!


The conference was as usual a weekend full of useful sessions and lots of writing friends, although this year I arrived a day early to take advantage of an event at Wellington Library where authors Nicola Cornick, Sarah Morgan, Kate Walker, Freda Lightfoot and Bernadine Kennedy talked of their writing and books.

Authors from Right to left Kate Walker, Bernadine Kennedy, Freda Lightfoot, Sarah Morgan and Nicola Cornick

Before I left, I had a look in the Mills and Boon section and found my first book, A Deal Before the Altar - and had to have my photo taken with it!



The most useful sessions I attended during the conference were Nicola Cornick and Sarah Morgan's social media session, Fiona Harper's Building Characters from the inside out and of course, Mills and Boon's session, this year on creating the perfect heroine for a selection of heroes, which in turn created great stories. Now I just need to keep in mind all the useful tips from all these sessions.

All too soon it was time to go home and for me that meant returning to my cows and calves which gives me another opportunity to post a farm photo!


Rachael
xx



Wednesday, 28 June 2017

November 2017 - Cover Reveal

Seeing my new cover for the first time is always exciting and my next book, Valdez's Bartered Bride, to be released in November 2017 doesn't disappoint. It's just as I imagined when writing the book.


And the all important back cover blurb ..

Blackmailed into marriage... by Christmas!

Genealogist Lydia Carter-Wilson is horrified by the debts her father has run up in her name. Then magnate Raul Valdez approaches her with an outrageous proposition. If she helps him claim his inheritance, he'll pay off her debts and save her tarnished reputations. But there's a catch. If she fails, she will marry Raul on Christmas Eve!

No matter their instant and electrifying attraction, Lydia knows Raul's proposal amounts to blackmail. Yer faced with an impossible choice - risking ruin or becoming Raul's bartered bride - Lydia finds she cannot resist her desire to make a deal with the dark-hearted billionaire!

You can pre-order your copy here.

Rachael
xx

Monday, 26 June 2017

London Again!

At the beginning of last week I was heading to London again. This time to meet up with Nas Dean who does a wonderful job promoting mine and many other authors books.


One of my last blog posts for her was on travelling to Pisa in Italy, which was one of the destinations on Nas's travels.

Nas lives in Fiji and has been travelling around Europe and has been to so many destinations I haven't been able to keep up with her! I did arrange one special trip whilst she was in London and that was to the Mills and Boon offices.


Here we are with Flo Nicoll and Joanne Grant.

The next morning, I took an early morning walk around Hyde Park and had fun posting the images to Instagram as I went. You can see more of my Instagram photos at rachaelthomasromanceauthor



All too soon it was time to make the long train journey home during which I began working on my next book. I was in the fun situation of being on the train heading to Wales and on a Greek Island at the same time! I also indulged in a bit of longhand writing. I love going back to pencil and paper.



When I returned home, I completed revisions for my latest sheikh story and returned them to my editor. Now I'm back at my desk typing up all those pages I scribbled over on the train!

If you have a long journey to make, how do you pass the time?

Rachael
xx