Last night at 1 AM (okay, so technically this morning) I finished the first draft of my novel. It felt like this:
However! I did not write 30k in 13 days. Here’s why:
For the first week, I kept writing as I had been. Except more. I spent less time on blogs and email, I went out to libraries and coffee shops, and I stayed up late to work. And it went okay, but not great. I definitely wasn’t on pace to finish telling my story by the end of the month.
Then I talked to Erin, and she encouraged me (not for the first time) to try a trick she uses for NaNoWriMo: [more]. In other words, any time I got seriously stuck, just put [more] and keep going.
Can’t figure out the exact dialogue in a scene? [more]
Not sure how to get your protagonist from point A to point B? [more]
Don’t have the words to describe the beautiful vista from the top of the mountain? [more]
It’s very versatile. It can stand in for as much or as little as you need. And you know what? It works! At least for me. It freed me from the mindset of obsessing over words. It allowed me to just put the story down.
In addition to using [more], I started writing in a condensed form. Almost a note-taking style. For example, instead of…
Marco pulled Kate to the back door. Rain pounded against the house, a soft drumbeat to accompany their nervous breaths. Marco shot one last glance at Kate, who nodded. Together, they burst through the door and into the downpour.
I would just type…
Kate and Marco flee the house in the rain.
(And no, haha, that’s not from my book.)
Anyway, you can probably see how much quicker that made finishing my book. Because I wasn’t bogged down in details or word-smithing, I was able to focus on the story. I still made note of emotional beats, and occasionally jotted down lines of actual dialogue, but mostly I moved my characters around and made sure they did what needed to be done.
Now, of course, I’ll need to go back and expand and clean up. But I think this might allow me to enjoy the writing process more, because I won’t be stressed about figuring out what happens next (i.e., the storytelling part).
I think this is what some writers mean when they talk about a first draft being a skeleton, which they flesh out in a second pass. I’d like to try approaching my next project this way from the start.
But first I have to finish this one. For real. So I sent the second “half” to a friend to get feedback on the plot. While he looks it over, I’m giving myself the weekend off. I’m going to read (yay!) and recoup some sleep. Then I’ll use August to get the book in shape, and I’m thinking I should be ready to query agents in September.
Wow. I feel like everything is moving so fast, and yet I know I still have such a long way to go.