“The End” – two of the most glorious words I’ve ever written. 105,000 words preceded them to make up the first draft of my novel, ’26 Miles to the Moon’, but those closing two meant phase 1 is now complete. And I’m absolutely chuffed.
1. I got to the end. From what I’ve read, so many writers start a novel and fail to finish it, either due to a lack of time, loss of enthusiasm or because they just get stuck on the plot part way through. I was lucky to have given myself five free months to plan and write it with few distractions in between, so I had the time. Enthusiasm waned at times, but I always wrote. And yes, I did get stuck occasionally, but with time to think and help from others I always got going again.
2. I like the story. Sounds daft? Then consider the stereotypical image of a writer from years gone by – sat hunched over a typewriter surrounded by balls of screwed up paper on the floor. You don’t always like what you’ve written, even as it comes pouring out from your brain to your fingers. There were times when I really didn’t like some parts of what I’d written and some days I thought the whole thing just wasn’t going to work. Of course, I might not like the story as much when I go back to it and read it all from beginning to end, but I’ll at least have something to work on.
3. I met my goals. I knew I would get easily distracted and I knew I would procrastinate. ‘Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow’ is often my motto. So to set a goal of writing 1500 words a day for almost every week day for 4 months was for me like asking Alex Ferguson not to chew gum at every match. Also, at the beginning I set out an entire plan for the novel with a rough word count and all the sections. Yes, I revised it a lot, but I met my goals by starting on time (Aug 1st), writing on every day I had planned to for the full 1500 words and finishing a week earlier than my original target end date (Dec 2nd).
Appropriately – given the novel’s subject – I think my marathon training helped me with the discipline. I had a date and mile target and had to run even when I didn’t feel like it…and that’s pretty much what happened with the first draft.
We’ve only just begun
So what next? Surely it’s only a matter of time before it’s in the shops and you can buy it? Errr, I think not. Now, the real work begins.
People have asked me “So when can I read it?” and “So do you just tidy it up now or what?” which are fair enough questions. Even I didn’t know the process initially.
The best analogy I can give is a classic one: that of a painting. I’ve just done a pencil sketch – it depicts the subject and is detailed…but it’s far from being the complete article. I may rub bits out, add bits, change areas. I will add colour, clarity. Polish it off until it is exactly the best I can make it. No-one’s going to buy it in its current state – many would look at it and say ‘It’s ok, but don’t give up your day job.’ (unfortunately that’s too late for me anyway!)
So, the next steps are:
To take a break until after Christmas. This gives me distance from a project I’ve been working on or thinking about for five months.
Read it from start to finish. When I pick it up again, it will be with fresher eyes. This’ll be scary, and a good test on whether I still like it.
Plan how to edit it. I’ve got to check things like whether the story is believable everywhere, consistency and that all my facts are correct. How do I improve my characters? Is there enough drama? Are there twists? Is it too predictable? I will need to improve the dialogue so that every line every character says is the best it can be. Is the pace right? Have I too many chapters? Are they of the right length or should I even them out a little? Are the story and emotional arcs right?
Once planned, I then start to edit it. I shall let a few people read it to get their opinions, as they will always see things I can’t. The editing process is going to take several months, I expect.
Throughout this process, I shall read advice, get tips and also work out my desired route to an attempt at publication.
It’s going to be a long journey, but the main thing is that I now have a product and the dream is starting to take place.
As Jackson, the fitness instructor in my novel might say to me, “Males you pussy! You think the last five months was pain? You’re just about to enter a whole new world of hurt…”