The First Draft, as Portrayed with GIFs

Whelp. I did it. I finished reading the first draft of my book. My book. That statement in itself is pretty cool. But I will say — it was an interesting journey. There were surprises along the way, reactions I didn’t expect. Join me, if you will, on the roller coaster of emotions.

The Beginning

bert

Have you ever revisited something that, at one point in time, you thought was awesome? That feeling when you you go back and realize, “Huh. This isn’t really what I remember it being.” Yeah. That. That was the beginning of the book.

Keep in mind, I wrote the beginning two and a half years ago. That’s a looooong time. Plenty of time to forget reality. In my head, the beginning of the book was AH-MAZ-ING. Intrigue, world building, character development, mystery! IT HAD IT ALL!

In reality? It had some of that. But it definitely didn’t feel fleshed out enough — I don’t think all the questions should be answered up front in a book, but there are a few too many questions as it currently stands. Areas are lacking. Which leads me to…

The “Science”

no

Le sigh. I mean, look — I’ve said from the get-go that this book is “speculative fiction.” I purposely do not call it science fiction because a) the science is far in the background, and b) my grasp on science is not what we’d call “strong.” And therein, dear readers, lies the problem. The speculative future set forth in my book depends upon an ecological catastrophe — and ecology = science. Science may not be the point of the book, but the science within the book does need to be somewhat realistic.

And what I have going on now… nope. Nope. Does not work. It is not based on any kind of scientific reality that could actually occur (a fact which I confirmed with a meteorologist a few weeks ago). Which, oddly, does not make me as depressed as I thought it would. With some research and tweaks, I do think I can “fix” the science — at least so it’s passable. At least so someone could shrug and say, “Well, ok, probably couldn’t happen, but it works.” But I need to put on my scientific lab coat and do some research to get to that point.

The Middle

tinafey

Well here’s our first PLEASANT surprise. I was sure — sure — that the middle of this book was going to suck. That it would be overly long, a slog for the reader to get through. Because that’s how it felt when I wrote it — that I was slogging through it, just trying to get to the end. But you know? It ain’t half bad. Yes, it needs some tweaks here and there, but not nearly as many as I thought. It moves along at a good clip — the action moments are pretty well paced out — and all the “major” moments happen at good points in the overall plot. I can only attribute this stroke of good luck to the fact that I spent time outlining this summer.

The End

lifeaquatic

Ah, the end. The point I was so, so excited to reach. And yes — it shows. The ending feels rushed, which is understandable considering that I was racing like a truck without brakes towards my self-imposed deadline. I think it’s mostly there, but it needs some sort of BANG moment — a bigger crescendo. I want to leave the reader gasping for breath, exhilarated, as she turns that final page.

And the final analysis? I’m not totally sure. I’m still mulling it all over in my head. As they say with houses, I think the book has “good bones” — but it’s definitely a fixer-upper.

I was starting to feel kind of down about all this — the book seems so far from where I want it to be, so far from what I know it can be — but then I remembered something Neil Gaiman said at his reading tour:

“I do believe in talent, but I think I believe in hard work more.” – Neil Gaiman

And hard work? Hard work I can do.

Bill-Murray-Caddyshack

I just need to keep going, keep sanding down and varnishing those layers until I get the polished piece I want. I’m already excited to read the second draft.

I Did It

Two and a half years.

191 pages.

93,290 words (24,000 of which were written in the past 30 days).

It is done. I met the goal that I set in January — finishing my first draft by the end of 2013.

I typed that. Me. After typing EVERYTHING ELSE.
I typed that. Me. After typing EVERYTHING ELSE.

This is the longest, most complex, most frustrating, and most rewarding project I’ve worked on so far. It’s taught me a lot about writing, about storytelling, about how I work best. It has taken everything — and I mean everything — out of me this past month, but now it is done.

For now. For better or worse, this process has really just begun. There will be revisions — oooh, will there be revisions. But it’s time for a breather. This is a big milestone, and I’m going to celebrate.

2013, man. You’ve been one hell of a year.