“When I’m in this situation I try to remind myself that I’ve been here before – and survived.”
Novelist Anne Coates on how she tackled first draft despondency to write her best book yet.
Like many authors I get totally despondent at various stages of my work in progress – predictably after I complete a first draft. With Perdition’s Child, the fourth in my Hannah Weybridge series, I felt the narrative was all over the place and I had one character’s thoughts in first person interspersed throughout. I loved writing those sections but it just didn’t work so it was back to the drawing board.
My first drafts are always a mess but I felt this WIP was even worse than usual. After printing out to establish the timeline and structure, I removed all the first person chapters/paragraphs and kept them in another file. When I’m in this situation I try to remind myself that I’ve been here before – and survived – and so has the book even if I have had to tear it apart and reassemble.
I was feeling particularly down at this time – no real reason – and I felt that emotion was coming through in my writing. Hannah, my protagonist, was going through a rough patch as well – we seemed to be feeding off each other’s misery.
One thing I have found helpful when I get stuck writing a scene is to move to another room – or the garden – which brings me a physical and mental change of perspective and this worked.
Curiously no one who has since read the final version picked up on this. While I was convinced I’d failed miserably, the feedback I was getting (including from my publisher) was that this one was the best yet.
Perdition’s Child is the fourth in Anne Coates’ Hannah Weybridge crime thriller series set in London in the 1990s. Anne draws on her experience as a journalist on magazines and national newspapers as inspiration for her main character and the themes her books cover.