Finishing the First Draft

The last few months have been a blur.

In November, I started a new job as a Copywriter. In December, I decided to apply for grad school. And in January, I finished the first draft of the first novel I’ve ever written.

Some people I know (and a lot of people I don’t know, but who write about writing) can crank out first drafts like it’s no big deal. They participate in events like NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and by the end of November, they have a finished draft sitting on the desk in front of them.

Not me.

In an excerpt from her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott has a great chapter about shitty first drafts. And, while I admire any writer who can let a first draft be a “…child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later,” I have to admit that I am not one of them.

My drafts are more like teenagers. Or a love affair. Or a teenage love affair.

At first, I’m smitten with my new idea. I lie awake at night, unable to sleep, thoughts whirling around in my brain, until finally, I get out of bed and put pen to paper. The only way to get to sleep on nights like those is to draw every last ounce of the idea out of my head. If I’m lucky, it only takes an hour or two. If I’m unlucky, I’ll look up from the page to find it’s 2 a.m. It’s like that for a few weeks. Especially at the start of a new project.

As my initial gusto wears off, I start to look for other projects. A new story, a new play, a new blog… And it’s a real fight to convince myself that I have something good right in front of me. Spooked by the thought of commitment, I stop working on the project altogether.

Days pass.

Weeks.

Months.

I pick it back up and start to edit. I read it out loud. I think, “Wow, I really miss these people,” like I’m seeing some old friends for the first time in a while. I dig out my outline (if past Jenell was so kind as to make one), and I set goals. Ones I’ll stick to, of course.

And then I’m smitten again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Except this time, I start telling people, “I’m working on a novel. I’m planning to have it finished by New Year’s.”

They smile and nod, chalking it up to another resolution I won’t stick to. But guess what? Now I’m accountable. And there’s nothing a teenage love affair thrives on better than proving people wrong.

So, I finished the first draft of my novel in January. It’s still a work in progress (obviously), but I thought it would be a great time to start a blog about writing. I can share all the things I learn along the way.

And no, I’m not just avoiding the revision process.

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