After a solid year working on the first draft, it’s finally coming to a close. There are eight thousand seven hundred words left to write — a cakewalk into the final moments of this story with respect to its production. Or, at least it’s supposed to be a cakewalk. The problem is that I know there’s a bunch of stuff in the story that barely hangs together, and I know — I know — the revision is going to be long and difficult, and this book won’t see the light of day until the second in the series is complete.
We know this, right? We acknowledge those eternal words by Hemmingway before even muddling into the first chapter. The blob of words at the end of the first draft is going to be a hot mess that needs a ton of careful management and documentation, and a lot of verbal surgery before it starts to resemble something worthy of public consumption.
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
I’m going to let the manuscript cool for a month or so and switch gears to work on a couple of short stories I have on deck. Among them is a story about a boy who returns to New Orleans following Katrina to find the coffin of his former love disinterred by the flood, a story about a girl bullied at school who resorts to witchcraft with interesting consequences, and a story about a misfit who finds an abandoned baby monster.
None of this is to say that Wake the Dead is finished in any capacity. There’s a lot of work still ahead before querying, but with almost a hundred and forty thousand words to work with, I’ve got a solid foundation when taking the next steps.
A few things I’ve learned while writing my first novel
- They are just words. You can change them, hack them up, mix them around. Nothing is set in stone, so there’s no reason to pressure yourself.
- Green Smoothies are a godsend — better even than caffeine.
- Exercise in the morning. Dayjob. Write at night. Every weekday. Makes a gal less crazy. Makes the words less gloopy and your butt less jiggly.
- When the words start to sound like a straw sucking on air at the bottom of a mostly empty glass, go read a book.
- Keep a digital copy of your notebook. Scan the pages, add them to Evernote. Better safe than sorry.
- Back up everything in at least three different places and put one copy in a vault at the bank. Also better safe than sorry.
- It’s not always about how much you write everyday.
- When it is about getting a higher daily word count, then sit your ass down, turn off the tv, and start small. It’s like exercise, you don’t run a marathon the first time you put on your sneakers.
- It gets easier.
- It gets harder.
- You can edit it whenever the hell you want, but if you do it now, know that you’ll probably have to edit again later. Chose the path of least resistance.
- Make sure your “researching” isn’t time spent screwing around instead of writing. Know that you might be staring into the deep abyss of time-wasting (and when you stare into the deep abyss of time wasting, it also stares into you.)
- Research is actually good for ideas, so do do it, and do keep it organized.
- Take frequent Stephen Kings. (Go for walks.) Listening to music helps too.
- Daydream a lot.
- Set up a whiteboard somewhere and put your plot and character photos on it. Mine’s in front of my bed. I wake up to it and go to sleep with it.
- Write what you love. Kill what you love.
- Celebrate when you meet your goals.
People are consistently surprised when I tell them I write. It’s not something I’m known for, but it is something I’m comfortable with. “I’m still learning,” is a truth, but I’m also pretty proud of myself for getting this far. The little book baby monster is that much closer to entering the world.