Wednesday November 18th – Day 14


Halfway! Up at 5.00am, fired up the laptop and went for a walk while the technical Gods rose from their slumbers. Outside of the artisans in their vans rushing hither and thither, the world was tranquil, the Meads picturesque and the air fresh. 26,000 + words and if my planning, for that read estimation and guesswork, is correct, I have another five to six days first draft writing to go.

Rule no 1 when it comes to drafts: never show your first draft to anyone, no matter how pleased you are with it or how well you know them. If you do, you risk wanting it back every five seconds because, no matter how many notes you’ve written, you’ve forgotten some vital information you meant to include. In general, and immediately on completion of the first draft, I like to put the work-in-progress down and distract my mind for a couple of days. Two reasons for this: one, it affords time to recall what I’ve forgotten; and two, it makes it easier for me to return to the work with a fresh pair of eyes. As to the number of drafts, that can vary. The Wind Between Two Worlds, 125,000 words down from its first draft of 150,000, took upward of ten drafts. I lost count, primarily because the story was complex in construction and I needed to simplify the telling over and over again until I was happy with the way the story read. Boarding House Reach ran to 134,000 down from 140,000 and Constant Tides 171,000 down from 200,000. Redrafting and editing are the most demanding disciplines. If you think writing a novel is challenging, wait until you get to the editing; it can be soul destroying having to omit tracts of narrative you have sweat tears over and which you believe to be as beautiful as Michelangelo’s David. My first novel, Mazzeri, accumulated 220,000 words with its first draft. How I got it down to 150,000, I’ll never know and even now I believe I could have, or perhaps should have, whittled a further 10,000 from it. There was too much ‘writing’ and the rule is, if it sounds like writing, it usually is and has no place on the page. Sounds harsh, I agree, and for a first-time writer it is the hardest lesson to learn. Mind you, I have four handwritten manuscripts from my late teens and early twenties – Broken Glass and Dawn Comes Too Soon being two of them –gathering dust on a shelf: I dare not read them. No, don’t go there. Oh, okay, maybe one day, but I may have to hide behind the sofa.

As diaries go, I am reminded of my father’s, which I recently came across in a box of family items. The reason I am reminded is that other people’s diaries are rarely interesting unless they contain some personal reference. My father’s, from the late sixties, though noting the occasional ‘day out with the boys’ or lunch with so-and-so, was remarkable for its record of the weather. These references don’t hold much weight or relevance now: knowing whether it rained fifty-five years ago to the day won’t alter my memories in any compound manner. However, the reason my father recorded the prevailing conditions in such detail was that having served in the RAF through the Second World War and flown both fixed-wing and helicopters afterwards, the meteorology mattered to him. Bad weather may have curtailed flying, but bad weather also meant none of the pilots and crews died that day. We are fortunate not to have to pray for inclement weather.

Ciao. Until tomorrow.


  • Diary Day

Further Reading

What You Don't Know About Me

Constant Tides

The Wind between Two Worlds

The Truth in Fiction

Ontreto: A Novel of Lipari

Boarding House Reach

Mazzeri: Love and Death in Light and Shadow