No, that’s not a typo in the heading. I’ve finished my first draft of my first novel, so technically it’s my first first draft.
I’d overcommitted myself (again) earlier this year and spent some time re-prioritising projects and responsibilities. In the wash-up, my novel got shelved – it came under the category of ‘it would make me sad to give it up entirely but it can wait a few years’.
Then I had the honour of reading Jess Newman’s second draft of her first novel, which was absolutely wonderful. It made me laugh out loud, cry buckets, dwell on memories long gone and re-evaluate my opinions on life in general. It did everything a great book should do.
It inspired me to have another look at my own novel. I pulled out my manuscript and decided to get it printed. This is what 62,000 words looks like, double-spaced and single-sided.
About 50 pages into the edit I was ready to throw the whole thing in the bin.
Writing the initial draft consisted mainly of watching a film in my head and simply writing down, as quickly as possible, what I saw.
Now I’ve come back to it after a few months with fresh eyes. Turns out the story that was in my head? Yeah, it didn’t quite translate onto paper.
The story evolved as I went along, so the groundwork that would normally be at the start when you read a novel, that hints at things to come, isn’t there.
A new, major character popped up towards the end; he probably should have been there from the beginning.
Some of the character relationships don’t quite make sense. I’ve written in the margin of one page in red capitals: ‘WHY ON EARTH DID SHE STAY WITH HIM? WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?’
The biggest problem – it reads like a screenplay. It played like a movie in my head and I’ve written it like a script… except that I’m the only one who can see it. I’ve scrawled notes all over the manuscript: ‘Where are they in the room?’, ‘How did she get from here to there?’, ‘What does he look like?’. Sadly telepathy hasn’t actually been invented yet, so if I want you to see what I can see, I have to pop in at least a few descriptive words to teleport the scenes into your brain.
Oh, and the ending barely exists. Minor issue.
The good news
The good news is that it needs a whole lot of words added, which is helpful given that a commercial fiction novel is usually about 80,000 words – mine falls about 18,000 words short at the moment.
I’m taking a deep breath and pushing ahead.
I still love my story. It needs a lot of work; it won’t be a simple matter of brushing up a few typos and shooting it off to publishers, but that’s okay. This is my very first novel, it’s a massive learning process and it’s quite possible it will never get published. I’m okay with that.
Even if I never publish a single book it’s been great fun. The thinking part of the writing is elating. The writing itself is liberating. It’s a draft, it has no deadline, I’m not bound by actual reality (it’s falls into the futuristic sci-fi genre – think Divergent-ish) and I’m learning so much.
If the biggest thing I take away from this process is that writing a novel is really hard, I think that’s still a win – I’ll appreciate every book I pick up as a reader just a little bit more!
So for now, I won’t throw my manuscript in the bin. I’ll keep plugging away at it. Wish me luck…
Any big projects you’ve considered chucking out before you’ve finished them? Are you writing a novel too?