The Biggest Edits I Had to Make to My Novel (and the Hardest)

When I talk about the process of writing my novel The Summer House in Santorini, people always want to know the differences between each of the drafts. I must have had nearly a dozen versions of the book over the couple of years it took me to write it, and every one of them was different in some significant way.

While I don’t want to give away too much of the early drafts (for two reasons – one, I might use them in the future, and two, I’m quite proud of how the book ended up), I am willing to share 3 major things that changed and how changing them made the book better.

1. The inheritance plot

The best but most infuriating change by far was the addition of the inheritance plot. In the early drafts of the book, Anna had other reasons for getting to Santorini, and her purpose there was a lot less defined. There were other interesting dynamics at play, but there were a few loose ends that didn’t quite make sense. That is, until my editor Emily suggested the inheritance plot.

It was the best suggestion she could have made in that it tied together everything we were struggling with, gave extra dimensions to existing dynamics, and created more urgency. But it was also infuriating because it meant I had to re-write almost all of the book to incorporate it. I went back and forth on the change because of how attached I was to the story, but ultimately I knew it was what would make the book its best, so I did it. And without that storyline, the book wouldn’t be anything like what it is now, which is so much better than the previous draft.

2. The relationship between Anna and her grandmother

The most important relationship in the previous draft of the novel was between Anna and her grandmother. Eirini (whose name was Agatha at the time) was far more fleshed out, and the two spent a lot of time together. It was actually this dynamic that led me to use my grandmother’s maiden name for my pen name.

However, with the incorporation of the inheritance plot, and with the additional need to cut down on how much was happening, Agatha became Eirini, and her part in the story lessened drastically. She’s still very important and a great indicator of Anna’s relationship to Santorini in general, but she’s not nearly as involved as she was before. This is sad for me because of the significance it held, but rest assured that I’m saving all the good bits about Agatha for a future manuscript.

3. Anna’s mental state

Despite how influential the inheritance plot is, the most notable change in the drafts for the two people who read all of them (thanks mom) was Anna’s mental state and subsequent behaviour. Remember how I said that before the inheritance Anna had different reasons for coming to Santorini? Well, that was partially because she was a bit of a fuck-up. Her life had erupted much like the volcano Santorini is built around, and much of it was her own fault. So when she got to Santorini, it wasn’t straight to work on the summer house, getting to know her family. Her behaviour was much worse, and it made the short timeline of the novel feel less realistic.

I actually really enjoyed writing about Anna’s descent into a lack of control, because the character was very interesting. But when we added in the inheritance plot and took out some other things, it didn’t feel right. So I matured her a good bit, which in turn made it more believable that she and Nikos would fall for each other so quickly without it turning toxic.

Of course, there are a lot more examples, but some of them are being kept for later use, and some would give away parts of the book, so I won’t share them here. But if you’ve read the book, DM me on Twitter and I’ll happily tell you a couple more! And if you haven’t yet read it yet, grab The Summer House in Santorini for just 99p in the UK or 99¢ in the US to experience the finished product!"

Writing/NewsSamantha Gale