Holy shit, writing is hard! Who knew, right? I’ve just finished the 1st draft of my debut rom-com novel, You Make Me Sick and I’m equal parts ecstatic and saddened. I’ve been working on this manuscript on and off (mostly off) for such a long time, I’m embarrassed to say how long it’s been. And it’s not like I’m writing an epic piece with vast world-building, a cast of thousands and a huge word count. My novel’s word count probably won’t even hit 52K. What the hell took me so long?
The two main culprits were my lack of drive + trying to write the 1st draft as if it were the final draft. Big mistake! Huge! I was so focused on every word and phrase being perfect it took all the fun and excitement out of writing the story. So, after a few writing sessions, I’d get frustrated and quit. This went on for quite some time.
Then one day I Googled the phrase “writing first drafts”, which was really just a clever way for me to procrastinate, but whatevs. My research did serve a purpose, though. After reading oodles and oodles of blog posts and articles, my light bulb finally popped on with the realization that it was ok if my first draft wasn’t perfect. The most important thing was to get the story down, no matter how messy and ugly it turned out to be.
Once I allowed myself the freedom to just write and not worry about it actually being good, it was a whole new world! I still had to fight my inherent laziness + the procrastination fairy that whispers sweet nothings in my ear, but I finally did it. I finished my 1st draft!
I’m still learning what works for me and what doesn’t. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
1. The first draft won’t be perfect, so don’t even try! Just enjoy the ride!
I’m over here making sand castles, mud pies, dirt cakes, all that.
2. Pre-writing my scenes is life! Pre-writing, you ask? What the hell is that? I didn’t know what it was either until I heard best-selling author, Rachel Aarons on a Youtube video (I can’t remember which one) discussing how she upped her daily word count from 2K to 10K. The secret was what she calls pre-writing, which is basically a written “sketch” of what happens in the scene. If you know what you’re writing before you write it, you reduce the amount of time you’re staring at the screen wondering “What the hell happens next?” Once I started pre-writing my scenes the day before I actually wrote them, the writing got that much easier! Check out the blog post detailing her process here.
3. It’s ok that I don’t know everything about my characters before I start my 1st draft. A lot of the writing advice I’ve read says you should know your characters inside and out before you start writing. I tried that. I filled out character worksheets, dug into their backgrounds looking for ghosts from their past and basically tried to get all up in their business. They were not having it. They gave me the basics, beforehand: the internal and external conflicts, goals and motivations, that kind of thing. The juicy shit: their ghosts, their worst fears, their secret wishes, I discovered along the way.
As exciting as it’s been finally finishing my 1st draft, this is just the beginning. I’ve got revisions and editing and book covers and formatting and marketing and a million other things I have to do to birth my book baby. And after that, I’m back to square one with the next book, ‘cuz I’m just getting started.