The concept for my novel had been rolling around in my mind for ages. About a year ago, I’d managed to squeeze out the first few thousand words. Since then, apart from re-writing the first chapter several dozen times, I’d done nothing but make notes – on my iPhone whilst going to work on the ferry, in notepads and on scribbled bits of paper.
After getting nowhere for so long, I took action and signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal was to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I managed about 5,000 words of notes.
About the same time, I read an article about how you’ve got nothing until you’ve put down a first draft. Once this is done, the real craft starts. You can hone in on the themes, develop the subplots and polish up the writing.
With the NaNoWriMo fiasco still in my mind and the desire to at least write a second chapter, I signed up for the Novel Manuscript Development Program.
After a couple of weeks, I’d written a rough outline. In the end, it wasn’t so hard. I should have done it months ago. Or maybe all the note taking was part of the process. It most probably took a year to get the plot clear in my mind.
Having a deadline changes your attitude. Since I started this program, all I do is run in the mornings, go to work and write at night. The novel is on my mind throughout the day.
Now that I’m four chapters in, I’m faced with more self-inflicted trouble. One of the other members of the group mentioned the daunting empty page. Well, right now, the full page is my current nemesis. That article stated that it doesn’t matter what the first draft looks like. The idea is to get the story down. It’s not meant to be read by anyone else.
On the Novel Manuscript Development Program, people can see what you’ve produced and when you’re working on a bizzaro type of theme that was over the top to begin with, the initial forays into the story are going to be more hit and miss than usual. Pride has to be thrown out, but still, I’d prefer that only my final re-written and polished version to be read, not a half-baked first cut.
To stop these thoughts from taking over you have to say, “So what? “ The dialogue may be weak and the structure flaky, but the concept is cool and I’m going to push on. If it works out, then by the third or fourth re-write I’ll have created something unique.
In the end, I suppose that the first draft is like every other goal. When you get there, there’ll be another mountain to climb, but it’s something to aim for and who knows what will happen along the way.