Saturday, October 28, 2017

My First Draft

I have finally finished the first draft of my novel. It's been a long time coming, but years later, after ninety-six thousand words, I'm done. I've taken my time on this road, occasionally taking time off, sometimes more time than was good for me, but I've learned a lot during the process and I'm confident that future projects will benefit from what I've gone through to finish this book.

Of course, I'm not completely done yet. It's only the first draft and I have plenty of editing to do, but I'm excited to send it out to some alpha readers and get some feedback that will give me an idea of what the readers are looking for. I know that certain chapters need some polishing and that some might need a complete overhaul, what I don't know is what's missing or what doesn't work at all. That's what alpha readers can offer and I can't wait to hear back form them.

But now, on to what I've learned over the time that I've spent writing this puppy.

Time: It takes me a while to get into my writing zone. I've found that if I know I don't have more than an hour to sit down and focus on writing, then I won't be able to concentrate and would much rather distract myself with something else. This has often led to me not writing at all on some days, and that's no good. I've learned that sometimes it's just better to sit down and tell myself "write!" It doesn't matter what or for how long as long as I keep at it. When I do find a larger block of time it will be all the easier to get into that zone and write like mad.

Persistence: This is on a similar note as mentioned above and it had a drastic effect on how long it took me to finish this draft. After I ended up not writing for a couple of days, I found that a week had passed and then a month with no progress whatsoever. I didn't have a deadline so there was nothing much pushing me to get back on that horse once I was off. I told myself that I wasn't in the right mood and I needed to wait for some more inspiration to keep going. But that brings me back to my what I learned about time, because if I don't sit down and write, the chance of being inspired sinks dramatically. If I write every day, ideas and solutions to problems within the story seem to grow over night.

Outlining: This is the big one. I've always known this about myself, I like things done a certain way, but I had to learn how I like to do things when it comes to writing. This ties in especially well with the reasons that sometimes led to writing droughts. I need to know where my story is headed and I work best if I've figured out what the most important parts of a chapter are, my story beats, so to speak.
    I found myself not wanting to continue on several occasions, because I didn't quite know what should happen next. I was stuck and didn't know how to get free. I can think of two situations where persistence was key, because I just sat down and told myself to write. I began and at some point things started to flow again - what I had written wasn't necessarily good, but while writing I found where I wanted the chapter to go - and I was free to continue writing the story.
    For a long time, I knew what my big ending would look like. I had a few scenes in mind, but the overall picture was still pretty hazy. I didn't quite know how I got there and what some of the characters would be doing. I also felt like there was something missing. A lightning bolt of inspiration struck at some point and the tools of outlining that led me to the ending that I didn't know I was missing until I had planned it all out.

These are the main things I've learned, but there are many more when it comes to writing prose. I'm excited to see how my experiences for this novel will help me write the next one. It's November in a few days and while my alpha readers get busy reading my first draft, I thought, I should get busy writing a new first draft for another book. I don't think there's a better time for this than NaNoWriMo. This will be my first time participating, but I'm confident I'll get a heck of a lot done in this coming month.

I can't wait to get started.

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