Yesterday, as I predicted, I finished the first draft of my sekrit project novel. And there was rejoicing throughout the Hills of Surry.1 Well, at least throughout my little corner of it.
It’s the first solo novel I’ve written since Liar which I finished lo those many years ago in 2008. I shall admit that given the RSI and other injuries and annoyances I had begun to wonder if I was ever going to finish another solo novel again. Had I lost my mojo? Would I have to do collaborations for the rest of my career?2
But I have my answer: I can! I did! All is good!
Pretty much every moment up until the completion of the first draft I am uncertain that there will be a finished book. But once I have a complete draft I know it’s going to happen. Even if it is radically rewritten. Even if I have to throw away large chunks. There will be a book.
I love this part. Because this is where I get in and get dirty. The real work of taking those words and turning them into an actual novel of goodness. As opposed to a novel-shaped thing.
Finally I have all the bits of the novel. I know what it’s about, who all these people are, and what they want. Now all I have to do is make it so people who aren’t me know and care about all those things when they read it.
Back in the day it used to be that I liked writing first drafts best of all. Rewriting was an onerous task. I wrote the book already? Why do I have to do any more work? Waaaahhhh!
Mostly I hated it because back then I had no idea how to do it, which is why I wrote a guide to doing so. In fact, before I was published I was barely passable at rewriting. It’s the part of my writing that has improved most dramatically since I started working with professional editors. Wonderful editors like Eloise Flood, Liesa Abrams, Jodie Webster and Anne Hoppe are the people who taught me how to rewrite.3
I slowly transitioned from someone who hated editorial letters and dreaded the whole process to someone who couldn’t wait to get started rewriting. Who viewed the first draft as the thing that had to be done before you could get going on the hard work of making a novel.
Don’t get me wrong writing the first draft can be a lot of fun. But it’s no where near as fun. I always find that tickle of uncertainty of whether I actually will finish the damn thing tugs at me in sometimes uncomfortable ways when I write the first draft. But once I’ve written that draft I am all certainty. No matter how many drafts it takes to make this as good as I can possibly make it—and on track record it will be at least five—I know it will be done.
What parts of the novel writing process do you like best?
- As in Surry Hills in Sydney. Not the hills of any other Surry around the world. I hear there other ones. [↩]
- Not that there’s anything wrong with collaborations. Writing Team Human with Sarah was a joy and I’m dead proud of that book. [↩]
- Listed in chronological order. Eloise and Liesa worked on the Magic or Madness trilogy with me. Jodie on all my books after the trilogy and Anne on Team Human. [↩]