To help me tackle the first of those questions, let me introduce the Rewritepercentagealiser. This is a whizzy new gadget that reflects what marginal voters in Bury St Edmunds think about local planning regulations. Oops, my mistake - it's actually going to show how much of the first draft I was expecting to rewrite at each stage of the process.
Late November 2009
I meet the agent and she discusses her ideas for improving the plot of the book (i.e. making it saleable). I leave the meeting with no earthly idea of how I can do what she's asking.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 100% (impossible)
Even later November 2009
I wake up with a head full of plans of how to fix the book without doing too much work.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 20% (that's more like it)
Even later than that November 2009
I discover that many of my plans are broken and will only work if I change the hero of my book to a giant zombie-hunting frog called Eduardo.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 40% (that's less like it)
I send off the first 6 rewritten chapters and the agent is not keen, to say the least. She tells me that I should write less like Darren Shan and more like Nick Cross. But I don't know how Nick Cross is supposed to write!
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 110% (I've now written even more words that I won't use)
I realise that I only have one more chance to show the agent that I know what I'm doing. Actually, I'm not sure that I do know what I'm doing. I spend Christmas replotting the whole book. This is probably the closest I will ever get to the pain of childbirth (which is not all that close, thankfully).
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 50% (well, better than before, I suppose)
Early January 2010
The agent likes the new plan (yes!). I start writing the second draft proper, hoping that I can find a home for Eduardo somewhere around chapter 17.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 50% (holding steady)
Late January 2010
I send the first third of the book off and get an enthusiastic response. The agent says she will give the draft to some of her colleagues to read. I rub my hands and expect an imminent contract.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 50% (yep, looking good)
Early February 2010
The agency colleagues send me lots of comments about the first third of the book and absolutely no contracts. The comments are all plot-related and will affect the chapters I have already written and ripple through to the second third of the book, which I am currently trying to write.
In other news, Eduardo and I decide to separate, as he wants to spend some time "getting to know himself."
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 60% (oh crap)
Late February 2010
I down tools and head back to the plan. More grunting and begging for an epidural. I replot the opening and after some back and forth with the agency, do more work on the ending. I know that the third act still needs attention, but am desperate to get back to the actual words.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 70% (adjusted for inflation)
Early April 2010
Eduardo is seeing other frogs. I have no time to feel hurt as I have written two-thirds of the book and run slap-bang into my shonky third act problem. I spend a miserable Easter Saturday trying to make the end work without changing everything that I've already done. I get there, but not without significant mental anguish.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 75% (but at least there is one chapter that I absolutely have to keep in its entirety)
Late April 2010 I get rid of the chapter that I thought I could not lose. It was expendable - much like Eduardo.
- Rewritepercentagealiser - 80% (the end)