I didn’t set out to write a Regency romance novella. Not at all. I set out, way back in 2010, to write a full length novel. This was to be my practice novel, my prove-I-can-stick-at-it novel, my must-reach-the-end novel. I just wanted to write 80,000 words or more, then edit them into some sort of shape. I’d tried and failed at a couple of novels years back, and this time, wanted to show myself I could do it if I really tried.
I’d been researching my family tree, and had come across some characters who fascinated me. When I could no longer find out any more about them I decided to fill in the blanks via fiction. This, I thought, could become a novel. I knew even as I wrote it that it was possibly only of interest to me and my immediate family, but I wasn’t trying to write a commercial novel – I was just trying to complete something of novel length. Didn’t matter what.
So I wrote it, edited it, got some professional feedback on it (which said nice things like I was good at dialogue, my characters were well formed and developed well, I had some nice description which made the settings come alive; and also said what I already knew – that the novel was not commercial as it stood and would need a complete restructuring if I wanted to do anything more with it), and then I put the novel away. Its job was done – I’d written and edited 80,000 words. Gave myself a pat on the back for that.
So with that novel under my belt I went ahead and wrote another, this one 93,000 words, knowing I was capable of it, and having learned a lot about how to structure long fiction, and how I personally like to write. This one ended up far more commercial, and one agent nearly took it on last year. Nearly, but sadly not quite near enough. 😦 Anyway, onwards ever onwards – I’m now mid-way through a third.
But, those characters from my first novel kept nagging me. There was a large section in the middle which was basically a love triangle. What if, I thought, I chopped off the irrelevant beginning and the boring end, cut out superfluous characters and unnecessary plot strands, and strengthened what was left? Would that make a book in its own right?
It was a wonderful lesson in major editing. I hacked and chopped and pruned, then added a new first chapter and tidied the end, then rewrote the entire thing. It was great fun to do. I ended up with 50,000 words and a story which hung together nicely. And is STILL based on my family history research, although I changed the surnames of the main characters.
My lovely son created a cover for it, and I published it a couple of weeks ago, as Mr Cavell’s Diamond. Those who’ve read it seem to like it, judging by the reviews. So that makes it all worth while.
And the lesson is – never, ever throw anything away. Nothing you write need ever be wasted. You never know when you might come up with the perfect way to use some of your early scribblings!