First Draft Fun

So about a month ago, I wrote a blog about how I was trying to write a first draft of the new book I’m working on by Christmas. I’d worked out the word count I needed to reach each day to hopefully make that target and was about two weeks into writing at that point. It seemed sort of doable. Then, in a delightfully (or hideously) ironic twist, literally the next day after posting, I reached a point in the plot where I realised some of the planning I’d done was not as complete or coherent as I had once dreamed.

Writing stalled. Like, majorly.

We’re talking this;

It took me over a week of what felt like very unproductive thinking and not really writing much at all to work out how to fix the problems I’d discovered and re-plan ahead enough to continue writing again. By that point I was horribly behind on my word target and having an assortment of those lovely “argh, my book is so crap, why am I trying to be a writer, I’m crap, it’s all crap, whhhhhhhy?” thoughts, that often like to present themselves during first drafts. If I’m logical about it, I’ve had them at some point about pretty much everything I’ve ever tried to write, even things that have turned out alright in the end. However, when experiencing these thoughts, logic does not always get a look-in, shoved rudely back behind the overly dramatic and whiny angst that loudly proclaims “NOTHING WRITTEN BEFORE HAS EVER BEEN THIS BAD. OR PRODUCED THIS SLOWLY.”

What did I learn from this?

Never tell anyone your word count targets.

No, actually, scratch that last. Having told people what I set out to do was a good thing. It stopped me giving up and gave me an extra drive to keep going. Sooo, I started to write again. If I’m honest, it didn’t go that fantastically. BUT, I did try to keep to a set word count target and, gradually, the scenes got written and I got closer and closer to the end of the story I’d had in my head. By some miraculous twist, I managed to reach that end on Thursday. Weighing in at 82,241 words, it was shorter than I’d allowed for in my word target planning – but, sneakily, I’d planned for longer than I was really expecting the first draft to be, hoping to finish early. With the week’s stalled thinking gap, that overestimate helpfully meant I was able to finish on time at all. Win.

How do I feel about the whole thing now?

Well, I know there are lots of things that need changing/rewriting/full-on-cutting-out-and-never-letting-another-human-being-read-ing. In short, it needs a lot of work. But then, that’s kind of why I tried to write the first draft so quickly in the first place. By reaching the end, I’m now well aware of a lot of the problems with the current plot, at a fairly early stage in the overall writing process. While mildly depressing to realise all of these in a short space of time, in the long-term I think the sooner you are aware of problems, the better. Problems you know about can be prevented from festering and becoming entrenched. They can be fixed.

In the New Year.

After proper break with no thinking.

And then lots and lots of thinking.

Also, even if what I’ve written in this draft does turn out to be in need of significant revision (total pants), there’s still something psychologically encouraging about reaching ‘the end’ because then you have a whole thing. It may a messy, confused thing, but it’s a thing. And things can be improved once they exist. At this stage, it is about potential and, if I let myself be logical about it, I do believe that this story has the potential to become something worthwhile and meaningful, and that is what I hold on to when I find writing hard. I really care about the characters and there are already scenes that I got very emotional writing and want to go back and work on again and make better and better if I can. The story I have, while not fully there yet, is one that I do want to tell, that I want to have written, that I want to read. And, when all’s said and done, that’s what matters most to me. That is why I try and do it at all.

I shall stop writing now. In reaching ‘the end’ of the book, my writing brain has possibly melted and run out of any vaguely reasonable writeability. Yeah, on that note, apologies if what you’ve just read is incoherent pap. Thank you for sticking with it to this point. Well done. Gold star.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas!

Laura x

Twitter: @LauraTisdall
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