On Finishing My (First) First Draft

Two days ago I did my usual run through of scenes to write that propelled me when I finished a section and ran out of story. But this time it appeared I really had run out of story. The characters had done everything they needed to.

“Ooooh!!!” I thought

“The end.” I wrote. Hmmmm, lets add a capital…

“The End.”

Grinning to myself I admired my handiwork whilst trying not to wake the chronically teething, sleep deprived baby who was napping on me at the time. After a celebratory tweet, I emailed myself the work to add to my draft and decided to take rest of the day off.

Whilst the aforementioned baby put something of a dampener on my celebratory efforts that evening, I still felt pretty elated.

So, knowing how much of a mess this draft is after pantsing most of the way through, breaking up the narrative into two strands (purely to prevent my head exploding at about 20k words) and having a load of info-dumps that dump the same info in about 3 different ways, I decided to cash in on the momentum and begin edits/rewriting straight away, at least until I had a cohesive, chronological story.

Last night I wrote each scene on post-it notes, initially to organise the merging of the two threads and evaluate the usefulness of each scene. I did one thread and ran out of post-its (the toddler may have a stash in her cooker but I lack the energy to check). No biggie, there’s always tomorrow.

I was still buzzing.

Until tomorrow came.

Now I’m struggling.

I could claim forgetting to buy more post-it’s as the issue, but it’s just an excuse.

The sleep deprivation is really kicking in (it’s been 3 months of solid teething, colds growth spurts and more teething), but I’ve pushed through that barrier to write the last 40k words, so that’s not really the issue.

The draining, exhausting, demoralising issue is…the enormity of the work ahead of me.

Now I’ve not been under any illusions that I’ve been writing good stuff. It’s not a pernicious pin prick to an overinflated ego. The story is there (somewhere) and the characters are good (well, horrible, mostly, but they are real. Wait, you’re locking me where?!…) and since a couple of early critiques hammered in how important it is not to get too enamoured with your own work and over-edit the first chapter to perfection. I’ve followed the advice and allowed the language to slide appallingly, she wrote, appalled at her writing, in the interest of getting to the end of the damn thing.

I should also ‘fess up to laziness, as I know there are scenes that I skimmed over to get through the dialogue or into the action. One section did indeed start:

“blahblahblah, %$@# happens, they’re all locked up.”

for a few days before I forced myself to go back and rewrite it after the niggles got too much, but there are more parts like that.

This is probably why I ended up short of my 60k target, but that didn’t bother me because I knew I had to do big edits anyway, and I just wanted the story to run its natural course, but that was then.

Now I’ve actually got to look my characters in the eye and work out how to tell the damn story.

And this is where I’m getting reacquainted with my old 30k hump nemesis, “the fear”, as novelist Andy Killeen puts it.

Because what if I can’t tell that story?

And if I do…

What if no one wants to hear it?

It’s tempting to take some time off from it all like many writers recommend but then I’m scared I’ll lose momentum and be so overwhelmed that I won’t be able to work out where the hell it’s all going.

The point is moot, as the next few days are dedicated to Christmas and all its colourful paraphernalia (our nearly-three year old is finally old enough to really appreciate it and has been getting excited since September!). Hopefully a bit of Christmas cheer will re-energise me, or I’ll find some inspiration on the wonderful writing blogs that abound the internet.

Either way, here’s hoping for a Silent Night and Peace on Earth. Once the midnight Calpol kicks in!


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Mum, writer, gamer, geek. Trying to master the first two whilst squeezing in time for the latter.

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