Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The evolution of a novel.

I thought I would talk a little about how a novel comes about, the changes it goes through, and the long hard road to publication. For this example, I’m going to use The Kult, which is being published by Leucrota Press. Of course, there are many roads and many ways to write and get published. This is but one.

At my age, specific dates become fuzzy, but I originally wrote The Kult about 4 years ago at a guess. The book I wrote then was a completely different beast to what it is now. Firstly, it started off as a supernatural thriller that I wrote off the cuff, without any planning, and it came in at about 85,000 words and took about 6 months to write.

There are many things that can spur a story, and the genesis for this one was actually a building that I sometimes drive past during my day job. Because it’s such a fantastic building, I wanted to use it for something, so it provided part of the seed, from which the rest of the story grew. And here's a picture of the building so you can see what it looks like:

I must then have rewritten the novel about 5 times within a 2 year period, but deep down, I was never really happy with it. It’s hard to explain really, but it didn’t ‘feel’ right. It was as though there was another story clawing to escape, but I wouldn’t let it. Although I didn’t have a set plan laid out, I did have a rough idea in my head about what I wanted the story to be, and so I kept restraining it, moulding it to my predetermined plan. But it didn’t work, which is why it felt ‘off’.

I did send it out in this state, and I snared an agent (with whom I have since amicably parted company), and I know she submitted it to a couple of places, but it was rejected, which didn’t really surprise me. Again though, I couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that the story wasn’t right. Something about it was wrong.

After parting ways with the agent, I put the novel aside and continued writing other stuff, but The Kult kept niggling at my subconscious. I knew there was a story there, but I didn’t know what to do with it. Then I guess there was the sort of epiphany moment, when I decided to rewrite the novel again, removing the supernatural aspects, and making it a purely horror/thriller story. In essence, I let the real story come out, and stopped trying to dictate the direction that the story took, instead literally allowing it to write itself.

At this point, I probably did a couple more rewrites, so it now stood at about 7 or 8 revisions. After the rewrites, the novel came in at 70,000 words, and although shorter, I now liked what I had written and felt it was something that had a chance at publication. So now that I was happy with the story, it was time to start submitting it.

Next time, I’ll continue talking about The Kult’s road to publication.

4 comments:

onipar... said...

First of, congrats again. And secondly, thanks for writing about your road to publication.

I myself am nearing the submission stage of a novel (until now I've only worked in the short story form), so this is particularly interesting for me.

Do you think you'll write about your editing process at all?

Look forward to reading more.

-Tony

Shaun said...

Thanks, Tony.

Yes, next time I will talk a little about how I edited the manuscript if you think it might be useful, and then when I get to that part, I will later on talk about the editing/revisions that have taken place with the publisher.

Shaun said...

Oh, and congratulations on completing a novel - that's an endeavour in itself!

onipar... said...

Thanks, Shaun. Still editing away.