Thursday, 23 March 2017

Writing My Novel: The First Draft


I mentioned in the last Writing My Novel post that I wrote the first draft of this novel for NaNoWriMo in 2015. I had attempted NaNoWriMo before and had actually won for the first time earlier that year in one of the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions with a totally different novel idea. So I knew it could be done. In theory.

I knew this time round would be more difficult for a few reasons. 1) My birthday is on the 4th of November and I'm basically a child so I'm usually distracted in that first week. 2) I hate being cold and generally prefer to spend the entire of autumn and winter in bed reading or re-watching my favourite TV shows. 3) I had no plan for this novel at all. I knew the ending, the basic premise, and the names of the main characters. That was it. 4) This was my first time ever writing fantasy. I wasn't optimistic about my chances of finishing.

I did it though! I started a day late, finished a day early, and my final word count was exactly 50,133 words, but I did it!

The official NaNoWriMo graph for draft 1.

As you can see by the graph I managed to write at least a few words almost every day. I think there were only about four days where I wrote absolutely nothing and I did manage to hit the magic 50,000 words a day early. The most important thing of all though was that I had a first draft. I had been thinking about this novel for months and now I had an actual draft of it. I wasn't staring at a blank page anymore!

I waited a few months before looking at it again, just as everyone always says to. I knew there were a lot of issues with it but I was not prepared for just how bad it truly was. It felt like there was nothing salvageable in it at all. I had been thinking about this novel for so long and what I had written was not even close to what had been in my head. It was barely better than a blank page. 

I left it alone for another few months then and when I read it through the second time things didn't seem so bleak. It still needed to be completely re-written, there was just too much that needed to be changed, but writing that terrible first draft had helped me to figure out some of the plot. It helped me get to know my characters. Most importantly of all it meant that I had actually started. I wasn't just thinking about this novel anymore. No matter how awful the writing was, (and it was awful) I was actually writing it. I had somewhere to start from and it should never be underestimated how important it is to just start.

I'll be surprised if more than 10% of that first draft ends up in the final draft but it did help. It was better than a blank page. And, as so many authors will tell you, that's all a first draft has to be.

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