Strange Feelings and Weird Thoughts

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!


14 thoughts on “Strange Feelings and Weird Thoughts

  1. harlowfallon

    It certainly is an amazing achievement. I’ve been working on two or three different novels but I’ve not approached the finish line on any of them yet. I can only imagine there would be a bit of an anti-climax after you type “THE END.” But of course, now the really hard work begins. I think of a quote by Louis Brandeis: “There is no such thing as good writing. There is only good rewriting.”

    I’m a member of an online site called Critique Circle. It’s great to have a dozen people reading your chapters and giving feedback about story arc, plot holes, character development, grammar and sentence structure, and everything else that goes into creating a best-seller. If you don’t already have anyone reading your work and helping you out like that, I highly recommend them!

    Good luck with your book! I hope to see it on shelves soon, or maybe on my Kindle!

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thank you – both for the good wishes, and the advice! I keep forgetting how many resources for writers exist these days, on the Internet especially. I do have a few ‘trusted readers’, but they’re mainly people who love me and are too nice to say ‘I’m sick and tired of reading that!’ 🙂 I think the eyes of a stranger would benefit this patchy WiP of mine. So, thanks – I’ll look into Critique Circle, or something similar.

      And best of luck with your own work – I hope you’ll be typing ‘The End’ soon, too, and we can rule the bestseller lists together! 🙂

  2. Sam Seudo

    Congrats on “finishing” your WiP! Sounds like there’s still work to be done, but at least you have a version of the final product. Now, rather than filling pages, you’re free to focus on just making it better and better until you’re satisfied with the end result. Tall order for a writer, I suppose, but you’ll get there! 😀

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thank you! Oh, there is work to be done… wow, so much work! But I’m finding it’s so much easier to edit than to write. Not, of course, that I’m breaking my own rule and working on it today… Ok, so I’m breaking my own rule and working on it today. I know I shouldn’t, and that I need space from it to see it clearly, but goshdarnit, I just can’t help myself. 🙂 I hope I will end up in a place where I’m satisfied with the end result – I seem to be adding, rather than removing, words. That’s probably not right, right? 😀

  3. Susan Lanigan (@susan_lanigan)


    And – It’s probably not as bad as you think, Sinead :). But this link did cheer me up when I finished off my behemoth incoherence that called itself Draft 1:

    The thing is, you absolutely can’t write draft 2, and possibly draft 3 and 4, without writing the first draft. It’s all an act of faith and you have to commit to that faith before the story can explicate itself to you. I’m probably not making a lot of sense here but as the characters and you get to know each other better you might find that it is easier to preserve the nuggets of gold – and there will be gold – and replace the dross as and when you find it.

    In the meantime, walk away for a week or two. Disengage before you re-engage.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Oh, wow – that Anne Lamott link is the best thing ever. I feel so much better having read it! 😀 Maybe my first draft isn’t as bad as I think – nobody mentions Mr Poopy Pants, at least. Thanks for sending me that link, Susan. You made perfect sense – the better, later drafts need the first draft as a foundation.

      And I’m getting ‘Disengage before you re-engage’ on a T-shirt. Thank you!

  4. Chrissi Barr

    I am so impressed. 6 weeks is nothing. I have struggled trying to keep a blog over 6 weeks, let along pen an “elevator pitch” on my novel, let alone write a half page query letter. You have cranked out a whole novel (100,000 ++ words) and there will be loads of work in the rewriting but you’ve created something. Really created something. Your little baby isn’t crying, she just stood up an took her first step and before you know it she will be running.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thanks, Chrissi! That means a lot. I guess I’m going through the ‘baby blues’ at the moment, then. 😀 Hoping a few days away from my ‘creation’ will help me to edit properly and make it the best it can be. Thanks so much for the helpful and supportive comment. x

  5. loonytuney

    It’s both for me, as well 🙂 Happiness and anger for it not being perfect.
    I finished a first draft WiP a few weeks ago, and I’m still getting over the fact that I WROTE A NOVEL. And regardless of how long it takes to make it a good novel, it’s still an amazing achievement.
    I’m taking about two months off, though, because NaNoWriMo is getting in the way! I think it will be better for the distance, though. After NaNo, it’s going to be ripped to shreds…not sure how, at the moment (my first novel!) but I’ll do it.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Best of luck with NaNo – I don’t have the energy to even contemplate it this year. Hope it works out for you! And WELL DONE on completing your first draft, too!


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