Skip to main content

The Diary of a PhD Student: Draft Three. It still isn't over.

We are, after much feet-dragging and time-wasting on my part, officially in third draft territory...


And even though it’s 12:24pm and I just answered the front door, still wearing my pyjamas with, as it turns out, one or two ink-stains around my mouth from anxiously chewing at my scribble-pen so much, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. Although I can see why that opening description might make you think otherwise – and I can fully understand the postman’s, ‘Oh,’ when he looked up and saw me. For a second I thought I should probably explain myself but I landed torn between, ‘Sorry, I’m doing a PhD,’ and, ‘Sorry, I’m having a minor breakdown,’ because the two things feel somewhat synonymous at the moment. Instead, I opted for a, ‘Thanks, have a good day,’ which seemed just about normal enough to redeem me from my tartan attire.

So here we are, third draft territory. It’s not a bad place, really. In fact much of my time here is made up of drinking tea, eating crumpets, and wondering why the edit feels okay this time. When I started thinking about third draft issues, you see, I went back to the drawing board – literally – and worked up some monster timelines for the book.

Timeline One: The whole book, chapter by chapter, including a one-sentence synopsis of all chapters present.

Timeline Two: The chapters that feature a certain couple of characters – because their sub-plot needs to be refined in this draft – including a single-sentence synopsis for the chapter as a whole and between three and five bullet points for what needs to be fixed in that chapter.

And...

Timeline Three: The chapters that feature a certain quality that my protagonist has – I can’t be more specific, please accept my apologies – including, again, a single-sentence synopsis for the chapter as a whole and, again, between three and five bullet points detailing what needs to be addressed.

These timelines sit neatly alongside the mass annotations that my supervisor provided and the ones that I have also added to the manuscript since it was returned to me some weeks ago.

Admittedly, some chapters are taking much more work than others; their content is tricky, they’re very closely tied with other chapters, which causes continuity issues all over the shop as soon as a couple of minor changes are made, and I’m left wondering whether I’ve actually ironed out the issue or whether I’ve just tweaked the writing a bit. And, with that last concern rattling around with some enthusiasm this morning, I took a big step back and reminded myself of something: This is the third draft.

Don’t worry, I’m not so out of touch with my surroundings that I can’t even work out which draft I’m on these days. What I mean is – the writing should be okay. It should be polished and it should be in better shape and the edits should be slightly more manageable chiefly because this book is better than the last version of it that I edited, and secondly because I literally have lists of what needs to be done to make this book better – there is no, ‘What should I be doing?’ but rather a whole load of, ‘Let’s do that and swap this and fatten that out slightly.’

For someone who is still in her pyjamas at the time of writing this, I feel like I sort of know what I’m doing (wow, that nearly sounded confident). There will be days, God knows there will be days, when the book is beating me down – but after a couple of weeks of feeling like it’s beating me down (which is, as most people who know me can verify, the first part of my editing process) I feel like I have tentatively turned the corner into a new space, again.

I am deeply concerned that I am not making enough changes, yes; that the sub-plots are still not polished enough, perhaps, and that the relationships these characters share may still not be as clear as I need them to be. But I am also trying to remind myself that this is an okay book with an okay plot, and that I don’t need to move the earth or make a deal with the Devil to make the third draft work – that was the for the second draft – but rather, I need to follow my gut, spend a little more time with my characters, and make sure that they sit comfortably inside this plot that I’ve put together for them – because they are, after all, going to spend the rest of their fictional lives there.

Right now I’m editing Timeline Two. I have a checklist of chapters to get through and, moving through them at a three-a-day pace, I’ve landed myself with four chapters left (for tomorrow afternoon, all being well), and then I will repeat this process for Timeline Three. After that I’m going to back it up and put it away for a week before doing a general sweep edit across the whole thing, and then I’ll be packing it off to someone and returning to my critical work just in time for the new year – or maybe even Christmas, if I’m (un)lucky. That’s probably the time when the next wave of panic will kick in, but until then, if you need me, I’ll be drinking tea and eating crumpets with draft three...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake is the recently published novel from Amanda Jennings, released a little earlier this year by the friendly folks over at Orenda Books, and it has been collecting glowing reviews – all of which I have tried to avoid – for weeks on end. Now, having dipped into the book myself, it’s clear to me why. I was around three pages in to this read, in fact, when I turned to my friend next to me and said: ‘Bloody hell, this is going to be a good one.’ The novel follows the story of Bella. A young woman who returns to her family home following the unexpected death of her mother, only to be greeted by a father who is so overcome with guilt and anxiety – perhaps what you’d expect following the loss of a spouse, but certainly not how you’d expect it – that their already strained relationship only worsens in the opening chapters of this book. When Bella’s father, Henry, finally reveals what he’d been holding in for so long, Bella’s world promptly falls apart – and the reader’s heart pr

The Diary of a Whatever I Am Now: Corrupted Hard Drive.

Take a walk with me. We’ll go back to August 2010, late August, when I finally found out that despite my below par A-Level grades, there was a university in the country that was prepared to give me a chance. Praise be to them. Ahead of starting this journey, my generous mother bought me a laptop. A brand spanking new laptop. That my kind and patient sister, and her partner, set up for me and taught me how to use. They deliberately picked something that would suit the university life style – and they were bang on the money in that respect. That laptop lasted I-don’t-care-to-remember how many assignments and a 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation. Let’s not forget, either, that during my first and second summers home from university, I also wrote two “novels” (I use that word in a bland and unimpressed tone, incidentally) that were typed on that same laptop. From there, we moved to postgraduate studies. More assignments and eventually a 25,000 word dissertation. By this point

The Diary of a (former) PhD Student: Now I actually have run out of work.

In case the title of this blog post didn’t give it away, let me clarify: I have handed in my PhD thesis.  I handed it in exactly a week ago, actually, and I would have blogged a brag sooner if not for the fact that the day after my hand-in, a family member was taken into hospital, and the last week has sort of slipped away from me as a result of that. It’s been a while since I gave you an update at all, I know, and the last time we “talked”, I was in this blissfully ignorant place of not having any work to do. Let me catch you up from there:             My readers were wonderful. All of those who read and provided feedback for the book part of the project were insightful, considerate, and careful with their responses. I ironed out technical issues and even one or two final plot holes and so, to those who read the manuscript ahead of hand-in, I cannot and will not ever be able to thank you enough.            My supervisor made me cry. A lot. The “final few twe