The First Draft is Done

Is that pride I feel?

Way back in 2018, while I was desperately trying to finish my first novel, I started writing a new story. A crime thriller. At the time it was mostly a distraction from the scary task of finishing the original novel, but once that was put to bed (i.e. I finished the first draft and never did anything with it) I did keep tinkering away at my crime story.

Naturally, I didn’t get very far to start with. As is my pattern, I got all excited about it, wrote a few chapters and then pretended it didn’t exist.

But with the freedom of lockdown and furlough* I figured now would be a good time to get my act together.

My original plan was to basically treat writing like my 9-5 job, i.e. I’d literally try and write during the ‘core’ working hours I was used to. Of course that didn’t go to plan because I’m not very good at disciplining myself or managing my time. Luckily I realised that approach was doomed to fail quite early on, so instead I adapted and negotiated with myself to say I’d write at least 500 words a day. That worked much better, and I’m pleased to say I don’t think there were many days where 500 words was the most I wrote. Some days were much harder than others, but somehow I managed to push through it and wrote at least something every day, and for me that was a big achievement in itself. Especially on those days where I felt like the story was going nowhere and my writing was rubbish.

Anyway, all that’s just to say that in the course of a few weeks, I did actually finish the first draft of the book – hurrah! And you know what was even more amazing, was that I was actually proud of myself for once.

Normally my writing is a very secretive process, and no one even knows I’m working on a project, let alone getting progress updates about it. But for this one, something odd happened – due to the perfect storm of lockdown and people constantly asking what I was doing on furlough, I actually told a few folks that I was writing. I even told them what it was about.

And because people were showing interest, when I finally wrote those beautiful words – ‘The End’ – I wanted to let people know. For the first time in my writing journey, I told pretty much everyone I know (or at least those who knew about the book) that I’d finished the first draft. And it felt good. I felt proud. I enjoyed the congratulations and positive feedback.

I should say that that moment of pride occurred a couple of weeks ago. And since then I have done a big fat nothing with the book. Part of that is because I do feel it’s useful to take some time away from a WiP before trying to edit. But, deep down I also know that it’s partly because I’m scared of what comes next. I know that the delightful experience of pride and accomplishment won’t last forever, and that happy bubble is sure to be burst when I re-read my novel and uncover all sorts of issues (some of which I already know about, some of which will come as unwelcome surprises).

So I know that writing ‘The End’ is not the end of the story for this book. There’s still more work to be done including the bit I really dislike – editing. But for those few moments after finishing, I let myself revel in the sense of accomplishment and pride, and bask in the glow of affirmation from others.

I’ve learned that that’s an important part of the process. Writing, just like life, is full of ups and downs. Some days are easy, words just flow and you feel like nothing can stop you. Other days are so hard that even writing a single word feels like a monumental task. So the key is to enjoy the wins while you can, and be proud of the hard work you’ve put in.

I imagine the next phase will be considerably more challenging – I’ll save that for the next blog post – so I really would love to hear how you cope with all the different phases of writing. Which parts do you enjoy most and which do you enjoy least, which fill you with pride versus filling you with dread? Hearing the journey of other authors really does inspire me, so please do get in touch and let me know.

(*note: I can’t recall if I mentioned that lockdown has actually been a relatively relaxed time for me – I know not everyone has been so lucky, so please accept my apologies if my lax attitude towards this crisis doesn’t jibe with your own experience. I don’t intend any offence and certainly don’t mean to minimise the trauma many people have experienced. I wholly acknowledge I have been in a very privileged position during this time.)

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