Novel, 1st draft stage. What helped complete it.

Photo credit: free from Canva, “Majestic Stag in the Forest” by Torsten Dorran from Pixabay.

Well, it took longer than the one month of November, using the Nanowrimo online project tools and ressources, to complete the first draft from start to finish, but by the end of that month I had reached and passed the half way word target. Compared to four years of endless notes and no manuscript of any description before that, it felt like a tangible achievement. I had been trying to write and edit as I went before, which never came to anything, one paragraph at the most, which still didn’t read well the next day. The advice given was to keep focusing on word count and reaching the end of the story which was a tremendous help to not get distracted by other projects and not trying to make the writing flow better for instance. Without the first draft from start to finish, we have no clay to sculpt and mould ( has been a constant reminder on the site.)

Even after the end of November, it is possible to reset a new goal for your project, in terms of deadline and word count, which I did with some various degrees of success depending on family life and other things that had to take priority at times, and a new factor for me: being accountable to self instead of an online project generally and re-setting my own deadlines a few too many times! Die-hard habits that run parallel to procrastination tendencies…

Then when I reached my own word count, eventually, and thinking that I was entering the last two chapters, I left Nanowrimo and carried on writing without tracking time or word count, and seemed to fly through 20 000 words in a couple of weeks as I kept thinking every day I was finishing but the story and the characters kept giving, and more twists started emerging, which was really nice because, at last, I was experiencing something I had heard other writers mention and wished I did so myself: characters started to come alive in my mind and started to show me where they were going and what they did and how that fitted with other matters. It is a precious thing when they surprise you with details you weren’t aware of ( as when a character called Fenya in the story, starts walking to one of the two sons of Gwenfac’h (I’m thinking ” hold on, what is she doing?”) then takes her leather glove off and hands it out to him. In that instant, I know it is not a heavy gardening glove she used to take foliage away from an ancient door, but it turns out to be a falconry glove, and as soon as she slips it up his arm, a peregrine flies over head and lands on his fist. All the main characters around him had had an animal with them and I hadn’t even noticed that he had been without one. Our subconscious is always at work, and our mind and our spirit weave those loose strands beautifully. And other things at work, I’m sure, but it makes writing that much more enjoyable and exciting.)

So all in all it took eight months to complete the first draft. And now I am following advice to leave it for at least a month before starting the edits and the re-writes. It’s hard because after the initial few days of being relieved to let go of it, after a week or so, I’m ready to pick it up again, but no, I’ll resist. I can see why it’s important to get distance for a while. I have many loose notes I can tidy, and some research to get on with. Even some characters’ profiles to complete (now I know them well, it’s like describing friends I have travelled with (and the nemesis entities that came up against them, I also got to know them and their methods equally well…) I do not have to imagine any of them from scratch. Some places I can draw (which I have visited and am rather familiar with now.) It makes all the difference and now I see why getting to the end of the narrative is so important; it’s crucial. It allows for the birthing of a world, a realm, a group of people, of beings, it needs time to evolve and reveal itself.)

So, although I have been writing as I went, and a lot of it has been long winded and rather clumsy, I hope it has highlighted a couple of aspects to writing a first novel from a novice point of view, which may not work for some, but maybe will for others, as it did for me, mainly to get to the end of the story, even if what you write sounds rubbish style wise, even if there are some inconsistencies, even if you change a few details along the way, all those things will be sorted in the re-writes. To have a word count goal really helps, and in the end, I went over by about 30 000, when the story got into a momentum of its own. Keep writing through the “treading mud” days, because breakthroughs might just be around the corner, when characters turn, look at you and say “follow me, I have something to show you”, when landscapes unroll in front of your eyes, scenes between people start taking place, and you have become the visitor, the one being given the story to write, as it is revealed one line at a time.

Next: What I do end up doing during the “distancing” month 🙂