At the end of June I finished the first draft of another novel and, as recommended by gazillions of other authors, now it lies fallow in the depths of my pc, until that time – perhaps another week – when I will plough it again, weeding out imperfections, removing the roots of rotten characters and diseased sub-plots, and to continue the metaphor, plant some fresh young seedlings that will thrive and grow, I hope!

Tempting though it is I have resisted the urge to alter the things I already know aren’t working because I also know that there will other issues to resolve, and one can often affect another. Distance is vital.

But these are strange days for me, the novel-less times. I have all this space to fill, and sometimes I wonder what to do with it. So what have I been up to? I have been editing others’ manuscripts through the consultancy I work for, the wonderful Cornerstones; I have been reading even more; I have watched films; played with my boys a little more than usual. Earlier this week I pondered what others do during these fallow periods and tweeted the question: What do authors do during the time between finishing their first draft and beginning the second? And how long do they give the MS before returning to it?

As you’d expect, people being individuals and all that, the answers differed, though there were some common themes, and I thought I’d share them with you. Big, fat thanks to all those who responded, especially the Twitter crowd and the Ether Books authors; I can’t name everyone as there were simply too many of you, but I’ll link to those who have books recently or soon-to-be published.

To my second question the time varied from none – Erinna Mettler was possessed during the writing of her debut Starlings and went straight from one draft to the next – to 20 years, though most authors work to weeks, especially those who have deadlines to meet for their publisher. Shelley Harris, author of the fabulous Jubilee, finds it hard to balance the commercial need to get the book out with the creative need to let things ferment. And many like, Chris Morton, described the period as one in which he rips his hair from its roots. I can relate to that.

Gill Hoffs tends to tinker with the preceding chapter before moving onto the next, and was kind enough to share this link:  My feeling is that this approach might be too restrictive for many, though there are plenty of tips to experiment with. Claire King, whose debut The Night Rainbow is to be published by Bloomsbury early next year, doesn’t really have a routine, but feels that she definitely needs a break, and will do at least five or six drafts.

Reading is a common occupation during these ‘quiet’ times, with many of us finding it relaxing and inspiring. Jane Rusbridge (her second novel, ROOK, is out later this week; I can’t wait) does the garden, best-selling author Julia Crouch attends to her neglected house, and Rachel Connor writes radio plays. Alison Lock intersperses writing short fiction with bouts of poetry; she finds that she works better when she has more than one project on the go – ‘a bit like life really!’

As for me? I’m back to my mountainous to-read pile. Here’s a section of it.


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