Writing My Novel: The First Draft is Complete

end of book It’s done.  Finished.  At 85,953 words, the first draft of my first novel is complete.  And I feel so incredibly strange now that I want to jump right back in and get back to writing.

But I can’t.

I have to step back, take a few—many—deep breaths, and just let it sit.  My wife is going to be my first reader and give me revision notes (love being married to a qualified editor, by the way), and I have to sit back, stop thinking about it for a while, and work on completing another project.

But I have to tell you, as someone who has always wanted to write a novel, being able to say that I’ve done it is a very accomplished feeling.  The hard part may not be done yet—revising, editing, proofing, querying, querying, querying—and I know I can’t rest on my laurels, but now I know that I’m capable of it.

An Odd Feeling

It’s a little strange to have a project that I’ve worked on day after day for the past couple months to finally come to a close.  I’m very happy about it because when I sat down to start it, I had no real idea if I would ever be able to finish it.  86k words is by far the longest piece of anything I’ve ever written.

Right now, I’ll admit: I feel a bit empty.

With that much of the project behind me (until the revisions have to start), I feel weird.  Because now when I sit down at my desk in the morning, I will not be working on my novel.  I don’t honestly know what I’ll be working on, but it won’t be the story I’ve worked on for some two months prior.

I guess I know why Stephen King can constantly crank out novels and short stories.  Writing—creating—is addictive, and now that I’ve started I don’t want to stop.

That’s a good thing.  I don’t want to burn out (on the characters/world I’ve developed or writing itself), but at the same time, I don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve gained in developing my discipline.

Is It Done?

Not by a long shot.

Writing a First Draft There are technically four small scenes that I left out of this first draft of the manuscript.  The reason I didn’t go ahead and write them is simple: I don’t know if they’re necessary and finding a place to fit them in (they’re entirely characterization and did nothing to really move along the plot) was more trouble than it may have been worth.

Once Jennifer finishes reading it and gets her critiques back to me, I’m going to ask her about that.  I already have a list of revisions I think need to be made, and I will combine those with hers.  After those are all taken care of, I’ll send it out to a handful of other beta readers, and I’ll do the same thing with their comments.

Then I’ll start querying agents.  I hope to be at that point by the beginning of next summer.  We’ll see how things go.

The Plan, Part 2

My initial plan for the summer is still on track.  I still intend to write every day, though now I’ve tacked one more goal onto that and revised it a bit to better reflect lessons I’ve learned so far as I work toward my intended goal.

The newly revised goal is this:

Write and polish two new short stories; one of which is to based around my novel’s world, while the other can be anything new I want to write.  I will be ready to submit one, if not both, of these to professional, paying markets by September 1.  Then, I intend to collect and revise 6-10 previously written shorts in order to prepare them for Kindle publication no later than mid-December (in time for all those Kindles given as Christmas gifts to hit Amazon and start downloading).

I don’t think that is entirely unreasonable at all.  In fact, I might be able to get more than that done, but I would rather be realistic with my goals and go above and beyond them than fall short because I had no idea what I was getting into.

Patting Myself on the Back

Right now, I’m happy—happier than I’ve ever been creatively.  I’m enjoying being able to finally man up and work toward making my dream a reality.  And I’m pretty proud of myself.  I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but had never previously wanted to do the work it takes to make it happen.  I thought that if I had a few good ideas, a novel would miraculously be written.  I thought that if I wanted it badly enough, the completed a pat on the backdraft would just kind of…appear.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer, and I’ve learned a lot about the process of writing.  And the main thing I’ve learned is this: writing a book is hard work, even on the days when it comes easiest.  So I’m patting myself on the back, taking a couple of days away from MS Word and being content that I’ve taken the first step to living my dream.

Even though my book’s first draft may be finished, the “Writing My Novel” posts here definitely aren’t.  Now, actually, is when they should begin having a lot more meat to them, as I can look back and write about what lessons I learned as a first-time novel-writer instead of fumbling along trying to figure out the process.  I’m no expert.  I’m still a newbie, and I’m still unpublished.  But I’m a hell of a lot smarter than I was two months ago, I’ll tell you that.  And because of that, because I spent the effort to do it and learn, I will not be an unpublished newbie forever.

Comments

  1. Well done! I hope you’re mentally prepared to rewrite it again a few times. My husband got a novel published a few years ago. He had been working on it for – believe it or not – 18 years. 18 freking years. That’s not the time it took him to finish it. He finished it probably year 1 or so. But then he rewrote it. Over and over again…

    Seeing it happening so close to me I cnn definitely sign on how much writing a novel is about DOING, making an effort – regardless of if you’re “inspired” to do it or not. Inspiration is heavily overrated among non-novel writers. It’s all about grinding.

    Good luck for the future! Considering your passion and the support you have and the talent you show in your blog, I’m certain it will be published eventually. Just remember that it might take you a while.

    • I am. That was probably the hardest part of actually sitting down and doing it, actually: realizing that much of what I worked so hard on will be changed. I don’t think I’ll be spending 18 years on rewrites, but I know that a substantial part of the revision process is making things fit a lot better.

      Writing a novel is all grinding. I was inspired occasionally, and the writing flowed, but most of the time it was stubbornness and discipline that was able to get that manuscript done.

      It might take a while, but I’m not going to stop writing. I’m going to keep churning out stories and other novels so that I keep learning and keep getting stuff to submit and query with.

      And congrats to your husband! What was his about? Is it on Amazon?

      • It was a humoristic but yet sort-of-serious mainstream growing-up novel, about a young man. Partly real, partly imagined. A ton of nostalgic references to what it was like to grow up in the 70s-beginning of 80s. It’s written in Swedish and wasn’t such a success that it was translated. I doubt it would have made that much sense to a foreign audience tbh. I won’t leave out his name here, but I’ll send you an e-mail. In case you happen to know Swedish. 🙂

  2. Longasc

    Congratulations! Maybe the summer heat will stop your intense writing streak for a while? At least I have problems to do anything except sweating!

  3. That is FANTASTIC news! I will be looking forward to whatever words of wisdom you can share as I muddle through finishing my own novel. I have six weeks, and I’m a woman on a mission. You should be so proud!! I love that you say even though you’re done, and you really feel amazing, you want to jump right back into writing something. Writing IS addictive. Isn’t it great? 🙂

    • It’s wonderful. I’m glad to see that you’ve got a schedule for when you want to be done, too. If there’s one particular thing I did that made me finish this novel, it was scheduling it out and putting a date on when I wanted to be finished by. Coincidentally, I finished on my goal date without really meaning to. I hope you can come in early or on yours, too! You have to let me know how it goes. 🙂

  4. Congratulations! Following along, via blog posts, during your whole process has been really interesting. Great work! I can’t wait to read some of your fiction.

    • I can’t wait for you to. I have one story here on the blog if you do a search for “Foggy Memories,” and I might polish another for posting sometime soon. I’d like to get into the habit of posting fiction here more often, but I’m not sure if my schedule will allow me that much writing time. 😉

    • You really should, Gordon! I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy as I am right now. I’ve always wanted to finish a novel, and here I sit with a draft on my hard drive ready to be printed into a manuscript. The number one lesson I learned from all this is that it won’t get done without forcing yourself to do it. Some days I didn’t want to write. In fact, I loathed having to do it. But I can say I’ve written a novel now, and that’s the first step to being able to say I make my living at doing just that.

  5. Devin

    Congratulations! The hardest part really is completing the first draft- creating is an emotional experience, frightening almost to the point of paralyzing. I have yet to complete my first draft, but when I do I know I will feel indescribable elation. Rewriting will be fun, I think, because it will allow you to add to what you already have in front of you- toppings on a sunday. One day I will see all of your work in print.
    I hope to have your tenacity with my own writing. Perhaps one day we will meet at a book signing? 🙂 Castles in the sky… need only foundations on the ground.