Sunday, August 4, 2013

What I learned while completing my first draft

So the other day (7/30, to be exact), something amazing happened...


It came in at over 115,000 words, which is longer than I expected it to be.  Some of it will be cut during the revising/rewriting process, which I'll start at the beginning of September.  But I'm thrilled that I have that much material to work with, that this first draft is less shitty than the first draft of a different manuscript I wrote a few years ago, and that in the last month of writing, I made some pretty significant progress.

At the beginning of writing this book, I would sit down to write with no plan whatsoever, and somehow I was able to write.  But it was slow-going, and I was just slogging along. But then I gradually began reworking my process.  I outlined the rest of the story using flashcards.  I started writing every day, no matter what.  Then I started giving myself a word count quota every week--and I met it every time.  Then, in the last third of the book, I noted the major plot points that needed to happen in each chapter.  And then I started assigning dates for writing each chapter.  I met (and sometimes exceeded) all my goals--and meeting those goals made me feel successful and accomplished, which helped motivate me to keep on writing.

On that note, here are a few things I learned while writing this draft:
  • Getting organized can work wonders.  When I first started writing, I'd pooh-poohed organization and outlining, but by the end of this draft, one thing's for certain: for me, it's totally necessary.  It changed not just how I write, but what I wrote.  (Seriously, the last third of the draft is worlds better than the first two-thirds.)
  • Yes, I can make the characters in my head talk.  When I figured out the plot points for a chapter in advance, I was confident when I sat down to write.  Finally, I wasn't sitting there staring at the screen wondering what the hell to write about.  When I cleared that nonsense out of my head, all of a sudden the characters were coming through.  They did and said things I didn't expect, and I went with it.  They carried the story, and they made the chapters shine.  I wasn't writing them anymore--they were writing themselves.  And that's when the magic happens.
  • Making writing the top priority sets the tone for the day.  I'm a night owl.  I always preferred writing at night.  But then work and life got stressful, and I was often too tired to write at night.  So I started writing in the morning--specifically, getting up at 5:30 AM to write.  I made it the first thing I did every day. Getting my top priority done first thing in the morning not just helped me write more consistently, it also got the creative juices flowing early and kept me excited about the story all day.  
  • Getting sick can actually be beneficial.  As a writer, I have a very active imagination.  When I get sick, I always envision the worst-case scenario, and every cough or cold has the potential to lead to death.  Nothing makes a writer speed up her writing than wondering if she's going to die. 
  • Be okay with having a shitty first draft.  All the cool kids are doing it.  And by "all the cool kids," I mean every author, like, ever.  It's a rite of passage.  Embrace it.
  • Your friends aren't going to get it...and that's OK.  I can't tell you how many times my non-writing friends looked like they were going to conk out if I said one more word about my story, my characters, my process, etc.  Seriously, don't attempt to tell your non-writing friends more than a sentence or two about anything writing-related you're doing.  They're trying to be polite listening to write babble because they care about you, but do them a favor and either blog about it or find fellow writer friends to talk about it with.
  • [insert thing here]  Don't be afraid to do this.  If finding just the right thing (in my case, the perfect New York hotel for Emerson to kill someone at, or the perfect New York eatery for her to meet Mirabella for a drink) is going to take you away from the actual act of writing, just do [insert thing here], highlight it, and come back to it later.  Keep the flow of writing going, details be damned.
  • Pinterest breaks are good if they're kept short. I swear, I write more than I pin, though you'd never know it from the amount of pins on my "Writing" board.  That being said, some days I got a great deal of good inspiration, words of wisdom, or helpful information from some of these it's actually a pretty good way to procrastinate.
  • I can actually write something substantial during baseball season.  This was shocking.  Seriously.  I also have no idea how I finished the first draft the night before the trade deadline.  I did, however, chew through an entire box of Tic-Tacs fretting over whether my Michael Young Phillies shirt would be obsolete in July (thankfully, it wasn't...oh, and I still taste minty fresh). 
This month will be full of research, getting even more organized, etc...all in preparation to start fresh in September.  Is it totally geeky that I seriously can't wait to start revising and rewriting?   :)

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