The secret of successful writing is in the revisions

So you've finished writing that novel, well done. You're immensely proud of yourself and so you should be. Writing a novel of 80,000 plus words is a huge achievement but far from being the end it is probably only the beginning.  I say probably because yes, there are some writers past and present who can write a perfect first draft but even then I'll bet they will have revised as they've gone along, or their editor has suggested revisions. I've learned over the many years of writing (and the many years of struggling to get published) that the secret to successful writing is in the revisions.

The number of revisions an author does depends on the individual author. For me it is usually eight.  This is because I do a minimum of planning and plotting to begin with.  I come up with the idea for a crime novel, which is usually inspired by a location, I do some basic research and I create some characters outside of my regular cast who appear in the DI Andy Horton novels and the Art Marvik marine crime thrillers.  Those characters are only loosely drawn. I like to start the creative writing process as soon as possible, usually within a couple of weeks of finishing writing a previous novel. I have a rough outline of the first three/four chapters, no idea what happens in the middle and no clue as to who the killer is or why. But as I write the characters start to come to life and the plot begins to take shape.  I research as I go along both background and characters. And I pause the creative writing process to plot more as the novel progresses. I keep editing to a minimum in that first draft, my aim is to get it on to my computer screen as quickly as possible. The first draft usually takes me about two to three months.

Next comes the mixing and shaping when I go back through the novel and I begin to revise chapters, to move chapters around because I realise they're not in the correct place. I might also ditch some chapters and characters or build minor characters up more, who, as the novel has progressed, have started to become more than just a walk-on part. I might even create new characters, or a sub plot might take on a new meaning and significance adding colour and interest to the crime novel. It's messy but gradually the novel begins to take better shape.  This will take me several revisions usually up to four by the time I am happy with it.

Now I need to make sure that all the characters are fully formed and fleshed out, that the clues are firmly planted and sometimes cleverly disguised; that all the unanswered questions are answered, the red herrings are in place, the setting and research are correct and it all hangs together.  This takes me from the fifth revision to the sixth.

After that it's checking every line of the novel to ensure that I've used the most appropriate words and phrases at the appropriate time and have not over-used certain words. The computer 'find' function can be very helpful here. Then it's another read through, number eight, and hopefully the final one. By this time I know the story so well that I can no longer determine if it is good or bad. On a good day I am happy with it. On a bad day I want to throw it all away and start again.

When I have reached the stage where I can do no more to it it is time to send it off to my publisher, Severn house, with my fingers crossed that they like it and don't ask me to make too many changes and certainly not major ones because with a crime novel that is so tightly plotted - and mine are  -  if you change one thing you change it all. A major rewrite, or any re-write is not the ideal scenario for me which is why for me, the secret to successful crime writing is in the revisions.

Fatal Catch, DI Andy Horton, the twelfth in the series is published by Severn House and available in hardcover and as an ebook on Amazon Kindle and Kobo.

Dangerous Cargo, is the second in the Art Marvik marine crime series, published by Severn House, and is available in hardcover. It will be published as an ebook on 1 September 2016 when it will also be published in the USA.

All my books are available for loan in UK, USA and Commonwealth libraries.


If you've enjoyed reading my crime novels please do tell others, we'd also love for you to leave a short review or rating on Amazon as it all helps to introduce the novels to new readers.

Where to buy

Pauline Rowson's books USA

Pauline Rowson's books UK

From your local bookshop

Also available as an ebook and on Amazon Kindle, Kobo and for loan from UK, USA, Irish and Commonwealth libraries


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