Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Magical First Draft Experience

The first draft is a wonderful time. The plot and the characters are fresh and perfect, they get to all be a total mess and it doesn't matter. You know there's going to be that god-awful editing process later but it doesn't matter yet. And this particular time, it's November, which means there's thousands of us around the world, in it together. I love NaNoWriMo!

Of the three, I'm pretty sure this one has (so far) been the easiest to write. The first one, which came after countless false starts over who knows how many years, was quite easy once I had the idea. I wrote the first draft in six weeks and edited it throughout the course of a year. I was a planster for that one. I wrote a bunch of notes, I was writing a thorough plan. Then half-way through that plan I couldn't wait anymore. It worked out well and that book became Ways To Fall Apart

The next one was rough. 3,000 Miles of Arizona took a lot longer. The first draft alone took over a year; not consistently, but it was such a struggle to write it that it seemed to go on and on. Partly because it involves a road trip across the USA, I had a lot of research to do. At the time, that was hard! My approach to it changed throughout, from plenty of research before I began, to trying to do it as I went along, to trying to get all the important character/story stuff in and adding the surrounding details later. All the approaches had their place, I'm not sure that just one would have worked anyway. The funny thing is, while I was writing it, there were times I hated that novel. Yet within a month of finishing it, I missed it. When it was finished I knew it, especially because I'd spent so much time on it, given that there were months of editing after that long first draft. I've even considered writing a sequel because I loved those characters and I want to go back to them, but one of the great things about road trip stories is that they don't over-stay their welcome. 

My current, still untitled (and probably will be for a long time because coming up with titles is torture) novel reminds me of Ways because it's smooth going so far. For this one, I think I hit the perfect formula for me without even trying. I wrote a whole plan for it once I had a fairly full idea, because I was working on something else at the time. In the past I've often been so excited by a new idea that I'd decide to 'take a break' from what I'm working on. In a short time I'd then end up with two beginnings that weren't going anywhere. So this time I forced myself to focus, wrote up the whole plan, then continued with my other work. 

When I came back to this one, I was really excited to dive into something I was excited about, with a good plan. Since I'd had that extra time, I'd come up with some little extras for it too, and now it feels like it will be the fullest and probably longest of my novels so far. The scale is much smaller than 3,000 Miles in terms of the setting but it's bigger when it comes to the plot. It made me realise that just because a story is set across a huge place, it doesn't mean it can't be an intimate story. I guess that's why I love reading road trip novels too. 

I'm 40,000 words in right now, and it's happened fast so I can hardly believe it. From my plan, I think it'll finish around 60,000 which will be my longest. It also has a lot more aspects that are based in things that have happened in real life that I've been trying to put on paper for years, so I think it's the one I'll be most proud of too. 

No comments:

Post a Comment