Last year I was presented with an opportunity (that I really hope I can give more details on soon): about half way through June I was asked if I could get a novel drafted by October. Knowing I’d be daft to say no, I said ‘Yeah, sure. Piece of cake. No sweat,’ or some such thing…before hanging up the phone and curling into a ball on the floor and rocking back and forth and calling for brandy.
They next day, however, I pulled myself together, bashed out a plot and character breakdown and from that point seized every hour I had spare in the evenings and at weekends, booked myself a couple of retreats and basically just got on with it. You can read back through my blog posts from June last year onwards to see the process in real time, but basically two netbooks, a thousand cups of tea and a few chunks of hair later, I wrote 140,000 word novel draft.
That was just the first stage and I have since done a couple of edits and farmed it out to get some other eyes on it, but it still showed me just what can be done when you put your mind to it.. I’ve always wanted to write books. This showed me that I can.
(Writing good books, I know, is another matter entirely. But I feel I’m moving towards the goal just by doing it).
Now it’s 2014 and I’ve had a break in which I’ve done a few short stories and other projects to give my breain soeme breathing space, but in the spirit of not resting on one’s laurels, I have now started drafting the sequel.
You know what? It’s funny how you forget. They women are supposed to be protected from the worst memories of childbirth to ensure the continued procreation of the species. I don’t know about that but I do know it usually takes about six months for me to convince myself the last tattoo wasn’t all that bad and maybe it’s time for another.
Now, I wouldn’t say writing a novel draft is painful in quite the same ways, but I have managed to convince myself drafting was a joyful, smooth and organic process. There’s no denying it was fun and I loved doing it, you don’t sink that amount of time, discipline and research into something you don’t enjoy, but there’s no doubt that over time my mind seems to have packed a protective cocoon of cotton wool around the sharp edges of the experience.
I’m talking particularly about the process of powering through. I know my characters have got to get from A to B whilst blowing up C and rescuing D. These plot points have to come about in some shape or form, so it’s best just to get the narrative down and worry about style and streamlining later.
I know this to be true, this is something the last draft taught me. But I was sat in front of the word processor the other night with that familiar ‘this is pants, why am I doing this, this will never get anywhere’ feeling washing round me like fog. Apparently that doesn’t go away completely, no matter what you experience tells you.
However, the great thing about experience is knowing what to do about it. And the answer, then as now, is simple: carry on. Change your music playlist if you like, make a cup of tea, have a break but make sure you carry on. It doesn’t matter if it’s pants. Write pants. Having pants on the page is better than having a blank page. Pants can be altered. No pants means you’re naked and will get thrown out the library…or something.
But it’s true. And it works.
I soldiered on. I didn’t shut the laptop lid or succumb to the temptation of eBay or Twitter. I kept going, knowing there was an exciting plot point around the corner and if I could just get to it I would be in the zone once more.
And I did and I am and I’m still there and the draft’s still coming. 30,000 words since Christmas with plenty more where that came from.
This is the deal: there will be peaks and troughs in your zeal. There will be doubt and uncertainty and maybe even occasionally hair-pulling and teacup hurling. But, remember, you do this because you love it and that editing exorcizes any multitude of sins.
Give your draft your time and your attention. You will get through it together. There will be hugs.
I hope at some point soon I can tell you what I’m drafting and what I’ve already written and where I plan to go from here, but in the meantime, have another mini #FlashForFriday ficlet, inspired again by the weekly picture challenge from the excellent flash fiction blog Flash! Friday.
Enjoy, and have a fantastic weekend.
“I said, ‘What is this, some sort of vendetta?’.”
Ruby shrugged and pulled her goggles back on. “Everyone needs a hobby.”
Bill folded his arms. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to do one over on Dad.”
“Nothing so dramatic. I’m just making a point.”
Bill pulled his goggles on as Ruby fired up the welding torch again. “It’s looking good.”
“Of course it’s looking good,” Ruby said, shouting over the hissing of the torch. “I’ve read all of Dad’s car books.”
“He didn’t mean it, you know,” Bill said.
“I don’t care. Now go and get me more solder, if you want to be useful. And watch yourself on the wiring.”
Bill smiled as she bent back to work and made a promise to himself that we would never say his sister didn’t know what she was talking about.