Writing YA: Redrafting and Revisions (21/11/16)

Since my last update, I’ve gotten some amazing news – I got a distinction on my MA Creative Writing dissertation, which means I’m finishing my degree with a distinction overall! I graduate in December (again, yuck), and I can’t believe university’s over. I’ve also started a new full-time job as a website content writer, and am moving out of my parents’ house in three weeks! Everything is happening at once, it’s crazy.

But OK, so in my last personal post, I may have been a teeny-tiny bit optimistic with my goal of finishing these edits by the end of October (in my defence, I wasn’t thinking that I’d get a full-time job so quickly). I’m currently rewriting chapter 21 of a total of 28, so I’m only 3/4 of the way through, but despite my slowing progress, I feel strangely happy with myself.

Why?

This is the third time I’m writing this novel. My first version was written back in 2008-9, when I was 14. My second draft – after years of sitting on the first version and letting it ‘simmer’ – was written in 2015, when I was 21. I’m now not far off 23 and I’m almost done with this version. I found my first draft a few weeks ago, handwritten in smudgy pencil, and oh my God, it is awful.

But that’s why I’m happy. My second draft was miles better than the first, and even though the third draft isn’t quite there yet, it’s still even better than the second. I’ve managed to achieve a lot more of what I wanted with the story; I’ve fixed problems, developed characters and taken on the advice of my friends and beta readers. I’ve even managed to largely flesh out the sequel, which was worrying me before.

And the one thing I do know? I know that this will be the final time I rewrite the entire book. Once this version’s done, I’m going to finish writing a related short story for Shift Zine and then go back to edits. Every time I write the word ‘stare’, or ‘glare’, or ‘eyebrows’, I cringe. My characters seem to talk with their eyes a lot. I’m also aiming to trim quite a lot of the book, as even though I don’t have a definite word count at the moment (keeping all the chapters in separate files doesn’t help), I’d estimate it’ll end up around 120,000 words and I really want it to stay under 100,000. I already know where to start – I think the first half of the book is a bit too stretched out, so I’ll need to cut for pacing anyway. But I’m trying not to worry too much about the word count – even though agents seem to prefer YA novels that are under 100,000 words, I swear I’m seeing more and more massive tomes in the YA section every time I go into Waterstones – and not just in the fantasy genre! Chris Russell’s Songs About a Girl was released in the UK this year and it’s a contemporary/romance YA debut novel that clocks in at a whopping 496 pages! I think YA is getting longer all the time, but of course that’s not an excuse to have a novel that drags its feet. I just want to make sure that nothing vital gets cut!

So that’s where I am at the moment. Maybe I’ll be done by March (my 23rd birthday)? Who even knows. I’m just taking one day at a time.

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