Marathon, Meet Cliff

WRITING 02Finishing a novel first draft feels a little like running a marathon only to fall off a cliff at the end of it. You’re rather at loose ends, flailing around. Sometimes there’s even a thud at the end of the fall which is, as others have noted for the male writers, probably as close to post-partum depression as we’ll ever experience. All by way of saying that the first draft of The War God’s Son is complete. I finished it last week with one 8000 word session and a late night of small continuity tweaks that I wanted to make while they were fresh in my mind. I was pretty much spot on as to what the length would be, right at 92000 words. As I said, I don’t do doorstops, but the publisher I have in mind is happy with the length. I tend to put in as much as I take out on subsequent drafts, so the final length might not be that different.

It took about six months, but that was the fun part. For a long time I didn’t believe that, but put a few books under your belt and you’ll believe it too. I didn’t say it first, but it remains true: the job of a first draft is not to be good. The job of a first draft is to be done. Once you get that straight, you realize how much freedom you have, to experiment, to follow a plot line, to throw one out if you don’t think it’s working, to think of something you didn’t think of before. Long before the last chapter, I knew exactly how the book’s final crucial scene was going to play out, and was looking forward to writing it. Then, just before I did, I realized that I was completely wrong about it, and something else entirely happened, something that made perfect sense and was supported by all that had gone before, but I hadn’t realized it until the time came to write it, and only then did I figure it out. That’s kind of a big deal for me, because I’m not one of those people who plot everything ahead of time. I’m more of a goal person in that I know where the book is going, and it’s my job to get it there. The fact that where it was going was not where I thought it was, well, not a problem. The point of a goal is to get you where you need to go. After that, everything is negotiable.

So. Even though I do think I have a good first draft, that’s just a bonus. Now comes the work of making it into the book it has to be. That’s going to require letting it stew for a few weeks so I can come back to it fresh for the rewrite. Then it goes to First Reader. Then, if nothing crashes and burns along the way, it goes to publisher. Where the crash and burn is still possible. As I said, the first draft was the fun part. Now it gets serious.

While the book is stewing I plan to use the time to finish prepping another book of mine so that I can release it on my own. This is one of those books that came out as close to what I intended as any writer can expect, on a subject I enjoyed writing about, but it doesn’t really fit anywhere else. Some books are like that, so it’s good to have options. After that, I’m back to the rewrite of TWGS, and then, I hope, the sequel to Black Kath’s Daughter. I actually had a friend come up to me recently and demand to know when that was coming out. The only answer I had and have was “As soon as I can get it written.”  Which may not be that soon.

There are only so many hours in a day. Or a life, for that matter. But it’s nice to know that at least some people enjoy what you do.