On Monday night I completed the first draft of my next novel. It was quite a different proposition to finishing the first draft of my first novel.
Then, I jumped around the room, whooping and hollering, thrilled that I had finished my first full-length manuscript. And it was finished. Of that I was convinced.
This time, I typed that last full stop and gave a little sigh. It was done. Now I have something with which to work. I put up a little Facebook status update:
“Good news: first draft of second novel is finished. Bad news: at 70,000 words it requires a LOT of work. Sigh. Tomorrow I start again at Chapter One.”
Because now I know.
Your first draft is not your book. It is the promise of your book.
Even if it wasn’t short (by at least 20,000 words), this book would still require a LOT of work. Being a writer who doesn’t really plot much (as in, not at all), my characters develop as the story does. From a kernel of a person on the first page to having a dimension or two by the end. I know about them when I begin, but I don’t know them. By the end of the book, I do.
Which means I must go back and add those dimensions to pages one, two, three… and so on.
It might sound like a messy way to write a book, but it works for me. I know people who do all that planning in advance. They know exactly who they’re dealing with and what those people will do before they even type ‘Once upon a time’ (or a slightly less cliched opening line…).
I can’t do that. The more I know about what will happen, the less I want to write it down. I made the mistake with this book of writing the last three chapters once I got to the middle of the book. To be fair, I had to. Something had popped up at the 40,000 word mark and I needed to find out if I could resolve that particular ‘pop’. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I didn’t want to wait til the last minute to discover that it couldn’t be done.
So I wrote the ending – and promptly lost interest in the story. There’s no need to write the story when you already know what’s going to happen, right? Er, yes, there is, unless you want a half-finished manuscript rolling around in your bottom drawer forever.
I gritted my teeth and ploughed ahead, happy to discover that other surprises appeared to make the going easier.
And now it’s done.
Except it’s not.
Back to Chapter One. To build on that promise.
No whooping and hollering. Not yet.
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