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Good Writing Habits


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1. Preparation

3. Feedback & Revision


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2. Writing Through




Every novel creates its own unique pitfalls. I used to think that, with experience, I’d be able to get everything right first time and hardly need to revise. No such luck. I avoid many of the old pitfalls, I’m sure, but I still find new ones to drop into.

I nearly did it with Liberator, which is the sequel to Worldshaker. I've never felt so confident about a first draft, ever. And my editors agreed (this was a case of all my editors getting back to me at the same time, Australian, American and British … and not long after, my French translator too). But they still had suggestions for improvements--and after I'd had some time away from the novel, I had improvements I wanted to make myself.

The same thing happened wth Song of the Slums.First draft written in six months (which is fast for me), with hardly any hiccups along the way - yet there were real problems. The difference is that I could foresee them and cope with them in advance. Like … a steampunk band rising to success, performing one gig after another - but how to give each gig its own special interest? So easy to end up with the same experience for each successful performance. I worked very hard to ring the changes, so that it never happens the same way twice.

One general principle I’ve learned is that the parts I shirk are the parts that come back to bite me. OK, I tell myself, maybe I could have done better, but I think it'll work the way it is. In the case of Liberator, it was a key stage in Col and Riff's relationship: Col's realisation that he mis-read Riff's feelings when he lost faith in her--leading to the big reconciliation scene. Trouble was, there was so much other action going on at the time, it was hard to give full value to the emotional turning-point--and I skimmed over it. In the end, I had to go back and create virtually a whole new scene, with lead-up and consequences.

The issue I don’t deal with typically resurfaces further down the track. Sometimes it’ll bring the story to a grinding halt, sometimes it lies lurking until readers and editors point it out.

If you judge some part of your novel as good enough rather than good, that’s the part that’ll haunt you. You may as well face up to it now!











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Copyright note: all material on this website is (c) Richard Harland, 2009-10