A.J. Grainger, the author of Captive, on her editing process…
I am fascinated by how people write, and I love seeing a book change between first and final drafts. I’m hoping you’re interested in this too as that is what this blog piece is about. I am going to show you how one passage of my debut novel, Captive, developed from initial idea to final draft. So … here goes:
I had been thinking about writing a kidnap story for a while, but I kept coming up against the same issue − the hostage had to be important enough to be kept alive. One day I was lucky enough to be invited to Downing Street, and the idea hit me: what if my lead character was the daughter of the British prime minister? And what if the reason she thought she’d been kidnapped wasn’t the real reason at all? In fact, what if everything she thought she knew about her life and the people who had kidnapped her was wrong? And the idea for Captive was born.
My first drafts are rough. I tend to just throw everything at the page and work out later where it might fit. This means I can sometimes end up writing thousands and thousands (and thousands) more words than I need. In total for Captive I probably wrote about 200,000. (The final book is around 60,000 words.)
I generally write straight onto a computer, using a program called Scrivener. I love Scrivener because it is like a giant digital ring binder, which means I should (in theory) never lose anything. You can also use it to take ‘Snapshots’ of a passage of writing, so you can return to earlier drafts really easily. I am an endless tweaker and forever changing sentences, so this is a really useful function.
Below is an early(ish) draft of Captive. The opening passage actually ended up going into a much later scene in the book. I also decided to divide the book up by chapters rather than splitting it into days. Also, Robyn’s sister, Addy, got younger – she’s three in the final book.
I like printing the text out and then scribbling all over the printout − as you can see in this later draft of the opening pages to Captive.
You might have noticed that the number of stairs has changed between this draft and the first one. This is because I did some more research. There is a great virtual tour of the inside of Number 10 online (here) and I actually counted the steps to try and make this scene accurate.
And here are my editor’s notes on this scene:
Copyeditors are the unsung heroes of publishing. They are often freelancers, so sometimes authors won’t know even their names. Yet, copyeditors do an amazing job of picking up spelling mistakes and grammatical inaccuracies. They will also look out for larger issues to do with timing and general consistency as well as fact checking.
The US copyeditor did a brilliant and thorough check of Captive, and I am really grateful. Her mark-up of the opening page is below.
After this Captive was typeset and then proofread. And here it is, as a proper book!
A. J. Grainger is an author and children’s books editor. She loves both jobs because they mean she gets to talk about books all day. Captive, her first novel for teenagers, was named ‘One to Watch’ by The Bookseller. She is currently working on her second book, which she wishes was at copyedit stage. (She really needs someone to check her timing and general consistency.) Visit A. J. online at www.ajgrainger.com or say hi on Twitter (@_AJGrainger) and Facebook.
Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world’s most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.
Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit − and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all…
A thrilling, well-crafted, ever-relevant story from a talented new voice in YA fiction.