In my first post, I shared that I completed the first draft of my first novel, The Chokecherry Tree. That’s an achievement, to be sure, but the truth is that first drafts aren’t outstanding. Everyone’s first draft is lousy, even experienced writers. So why should a neophyte expect to be different? No, the real work starts now. Somewhere inside my first draft is a terrific novel. My job is to find it.
The brilliant sculptor and painter Michelangelo once described how he approached a block of stone. He said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Writers don’t have a block of stone with which to begin their work; our raw material is the first draft.
The initial rough chisel-work requires the writer to get some distance from his or her first draft. We’re told to stay away from it, to work on something else. Stay away for weeks, or even better, for months. Then re-read the work, in print, and the inconsistencies and mistakes will be more apparent. That’s what they say, anyway, the self-styled “experts” of varying pedigree and experience. Honestly, just between you and me, I’m finding it difficult to stay away from a project in which I’ve invested many of my waking hours for almost a year. At this point, I care about the characters. I’ve woken up at night thinking about them. Earlier this week I began work on the second book in this series. Is that a good idea? It is hard to say goodbye to close friends who’ve been in my thoughts every day, to tell them I’ll see them in a couple of months, goodbye, good luck, have a nice life! What’s been your experience with distancing yourself from your first draft?
A week or so ago, I completed the first draft of my first novel! I officially began work on my book in October 2016, but honestly, the ideas have been percolating in my head for a long time. And then if you ask me when I first thought about being a writer, I’d have to say it’s been probably fifty of my fifty-eight years. It’s okay, I’ve had a pretty cool life: lots of travel, laughing, crying, living. So I figure I have lots to write about. The question is whether I have anything to say that other people care to read. We’ll see, won’t we?
Not too long ago, I read that 97% of would-be novel writers fail to complete their first book. So already I’m a three-percenter! Go me!
Nope, not so fast. I printed out a hard copy of my book, eighty thousand words, which I put in a very thick binder. It’s currently sitting atop my kitchen island. I feel good when I see it, but I’ve read that the real work starts now. My goal is not to self-publish; rather, I want to find an agent who will help get my novel published through traditional channels. That means I’ll need to forge my first draft into something that I can truly say is “the best I can do.” I’ll have to rewrite, cut parts I like (someone called it “killing your darlings”), I’ll have to rework, revise, and then probably cut some more. I understand that this process will take more time than I’d originally thought, and will likely involve repeated rejection. So basically, success in this field requires the same effort as does success in any worthy field.
Walk with me through this adventure, if you would, and together we’ll see what happens. That will be the main subject of this blog, though from time to time I may carry on about something else that tickles my fancy.