It may be over six months since I finished my first draft, but I did write this blog post on that occasion and I’d still like to share it with you all. It’s great to look back on achievements and remind yourself – I did this!
There are not enough gifs in the world to fully express how I feel about having finished the first draft of my novel. Although this is fairly close:
actually can’t believe I’ve done it. Something I started six months ago as a mess-about free-for-all fun bit of writing has turned up a whole story. I never thought I’d reach this point. The last time I finished a novel was for NaNoWriMo three years ago, and after the first week that was pure drivel from start to finish. Saying that needed a rewrite was being kind to the mush I had produced.
I know that people say leave it a while to fester before you start of the redraft / editing / generally tidying up the glorious mess you have created. But part of me wants to go steaming ahead, right now, and rewrite those first thirty thousand words that I already know need doing (darn you, magic systems and needing changing to enable the plot!) as well as tying together all those slightly scraggy knots where I’ve optimistically tried to tie parts of the story together.
So, what have I learnt from writing a 90k first draft in this time frame?
Write what you love.
I massively underestimated this previously. These characters popped into my head with only the vaguest idea of plot and early on I sat there on 20k and thought “Wow, I might have something here”. And for most of the story I didn’t know what was going to happen in the next scene. I knew the next major plot point, maybe what had to happen by the end of the next quarter of the story, but that was it. The characters just led me on my merry way.
Character is more important than plot. The story I was stuck on (which prompted this draft to start) I was stuck on because even though I had plotted it exactly, and I knew each phase of the story, and I knew what was going to happen to the characters when, I still didn’t have a clear understanding of those characters on more than a straightforward level. My writing was becoming flat very quickly with them and I know I haven’t yet done those characters justice. It all goes to prove that if you have interesting characters, the plot writes itself.
This may sound obvious but I am one of those people who, if they are having a bad day, will curl up with a book or a bad tv show and say that ‘my brain can’t write right now’. Only on bad days, mind, but I was frustrated at myself for a very long time for being like this. And writing is a fantastic de-stress from having to be a grown-up and go to work and all the boring things we do every day. So I set aside certain times in my week (not every day, but every day might work for you), where I would write and write and write. I tended to binge-write at weekends and top it up during the week, but different work hours and habits might mean that doesn’t necessarily work for you.
Notebooks are your Friend.
I have a notebook that I think has done quite a fine job of shutting my Inner Editor up these past six months.Every time I knew I was writing something that needed fixing or amending or was just straight-up BAD, I wrote it down in my notebook. Then when I start my redraft, I can let my Inner Editor out of its cage and let it run riot over the wreckage of my first draft.
So there are the things I’ve learnt about draft one. I eagerly await the end of draft two so I can see how successful any of this has really been…