Person on mountain

Finishing a novel’s first draft

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The moment finally arrived.  One that, for so long, I thought I would never achieve and which all of my thoughts have been focused on.  The typing of two small words:  “The End”.

I’ve dreamt about this moment in the same way that I sometimes day dream about winning the lottery.  Something that deep down I never really believed  would happen.  I don’t actually buy a lottery ticket so the odds on that one happening were nil but for a long time that’s how I felt about the first draft.  It was something that I wanted but I wasn’t actually sitting down and writing it.  And not surprisingly that’s an important part of getting a first draft completed.  Bum on chair and fingers on keyboard (or pen on notebook).  So this year I changed that and I set myself the goal of writing the first draft before the end of December  2016.

So here I am. I thought when I actually got here I would be wild with joy and excitement but it was a strangely muted affair.  I sat, waiting for the fanfare of trumpets in my head but it felt more like shock.  Yes there was a warm sense of achievement  spreading through my body but there was a mixture of emotions and that surprised me.

Relief.  Disbelief. Surprise.  Joy.  Fear.  I can compare it to climbing a mountain.  A really big mountain.  You’ve been staring up at the summit for weeks and edging closer day by day.  It consumes your thoughts.  You doubt whether you have the strength to get there.  You doubt whether you will find the right route.  There are days when the weather is bad, your mood is wrong and you just don’t want to do it but you do.  And then finally you’re there.  You look down at how far you’ve come, marveling at how all those days of  toil have added up into this big single achievement and you feel humbled that you have done something you’ve never done before.  and yet, as you blink, you realise what was obvious all along.  This isn’t the summit at all.  This is just the first ascent to a landing stage and that the rest of the mountain towers above still.

However don’t let that put you off.  It’s a very important stage to reach and you’ll never reach the summit if you don’t get the first draft down.  It’s a moment to be proud of; to have a rest and take stock.  And then get going again.

Which is what I’m about to do this week.  I’m going to plough on into the second draft which requires an awful lot of work.  But as the talented novelist Emily Barr said to me recently in an author chat: “The first draft is the worst your novel is going to be.”

How great is that?  From here on I’m going to be improving the novel that I’ve written.  And although there are many more months ahead of revising, rewriting and redrafting – hopefully they will all be taking me a few steps closer to that magical summit.

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