So, yesterday I finished my first draft of the WiP. *Cue Fanfare* Let joy be unconfined, etc.
You’d think I’d be utterly thrilled, then, wouldn’t you? I thought I’d be, too. I did finish a novel before, years ago, and I think I was pretty happy then (despite the fact that it’s sat in an envelope since then, gathering dust). I was certainly happy to finish my extremely long, extremely complex dissertation, way back in ’07. But about this, I feel a bit indifferent. I told my husband yesterday that I’d finished (at 118,000 words, trivia fans), and he told me how proud he was of me; I ruined it by telling him I felt deflated. A bit like this little fella here (I’m just bigger, and I have more hair. Oh, and glasses):
I did feel deflated, and I still do. Here’s why: my book is not really finished. By which I mean nobody, not even my mother – not even my husband, and that’s saying something – would read it in its current incarnation. There’s just so much about it that needs fixing, tweaking, changing – whole slabs of it will have to be rewritten. The bit that annoys me most is that my protagonist comes across as a humourless bucket of moodiness, when that’s not what I intended at all. She’s a girl who’s had to grow up a bit more quickly – and quite a lot more suddenly – than the average 16-year-old, but that’s no excuse for having her sound and act like the Terminator. Which, at times, she does.
It’s strange how these things only became clear to me once I’d written the last word, and saved the file for the last time, and closed the computer. It was like a spell had been lifted off my brain, and I lifted the whole thing up to the light for the first time, checking for holes. There were lots of ’em. I have a whole list of things in my head, all lining up in a neat row, that need to be changed; none of it occurred to me as I wrote, though. It’s like I had to have come to some sort of conclusion point before I could take stock of the thing as a whole, and begin to reassess it. Is this how it works for other people, too?
I promised myself that when I’d reached the end of draft one I’d take a few days off to read, so that’s what I’m going to do. It’s hard, because all I want to do is fire the computer up again and get cracking on fixing these holes – but I know I’d only end up getting myself in worse trouble, and having to re-do all my corrections, if I did that. A few days’ break (even a week, maybe) is needed to give me some perspective on the story.
But still – I wrote 118,000 words in just over six weeks! I guess that’s an achievement. This story has been brewing for so long that it’s a relief to get it out there, but I need to do it justice. I owe it to myself to write it as well as I can, because there’s a heck of a lot more than six weeks’ work tied up in it. I’ve been thinking about it for the last six years, at least. It deserves to be written as well as I can write it, and I haven’t got there yet. I owe it to my characters, too – my brave, resourceful, intelligent, impulsive heroine, her heartbroken and conflicted father and her anxious, clever little brother. I think I’ve been so invested in telling their story that I’ve forgotten to tell their story, if you know what I mean. The big themes of their world and the plot have distracted me from the smaller details, the bits that make the characters real to a reader. So, when I get back to the drawing board, it’s going to result in a second draft which looks very different from my current work.
I hope, whether you’re writing, drafting, re-writing, editing, sitting drinking Margaritas in the sun, or whatever it is, that you have a good Friday and are looking forward to a happy weekend. Thanks for helping me through it!