First Draft Complete! 
[BONUS: Sanity Still Intact]

My Gift To Me

This past summer I typed the words “THE END” at the bottom of my manuscript. Granted it's only the first draft and there's still lots of work left to do before I approach the scary scary world of publishing, but bloody hell! I wrote a frickin' book! And it's a book I would seriously devour in a crazy rush of sleepless nights and neglected housework!

It's been five and a half years in the making (from concept to first draft) and over three years of off-and-on writing.  That's abysmal by many standards – and I fully recognize that.  But to be fair to myself, I don't know that I was a good enough writer to have carried this whole thing off before now.  Beyond that, I'm not sure that I would have ended up with the same book if my methods had been more regimented.

Maybe the mystical ability to pound out a chapter a night will come with more experience... but for this book I'll have to settle for the chapter-every-month-and-a-half rate that got me here.  (Okay, that was painful to acknowledge, but I'm trying to focus on "acceptance" here...)

Clearly, given that timeline, I've had my fair share of staring in fear and exasperation at an empty page. And the more I sat there the worse it got.  But in recent months (when there actually was a faint light at the end of the tunnel) I found that the following three strategies helped me:

#1) Instead of continuing to sit at my laptop (where Netflix and Facebook lurked so close at hand) I took my dog for a trail run. The peaceful scenery and the repetitive motion sometimes helped me process a scene and it was infinitely more satisfying than banging my head off a keyboard and feeling sorry for myself.

#2) For me, sometimes lines of dialogue would be screaming to get out but any attempt to weave them into the movements, perceptions, and surroundings of the scene would grind everything to a pitiful halt. But if I just let the dialogue flow uninterrupted on the page (before anything else) then I would actually make good progress.  And once I got it all out there, it was easier to anchor those words into the reality of the scene.

#3) And finally, when nothing else seemed to help, sometimes I simply needed to go back to the previous chapter or scene and revise the hell out of it.  I realize that some would say revising while you write your first draft is a sure fire way to never get through it, but I just can't seem to sustain any forward momentum if I'm not fully satisfied with what's been written before. 

Mind you, these are still by no means silver bullets for me.  And I'm coming to accept that sometimes I just need (a lot) more time for ideas to congeal enough in my mind to be useful.  It's not the end of the world.  I still got to this particular finish line and I'm happy with the results, and I'm choosing to focus on that.

Would I have preferred to have gotten to “THE END” faster? Hell yes. But for this book I'll settle for just getting there at all.

As I mentioned in my Mommy Guilt post (back when I still naively thought I would have my first draft written by December 2013) it's rare for me to put aside time for myself. I don't want to pass that same flaw on to my daughters and to be honest it's still hard for me to believe that it even IS a flaw.  So I'm trying to model that it's okay to NOT take on too much and that I need to put myself (and my writing) first sometimes. 

So far it's working, and it's getting easier to give myself permission to make time for me.  I just turned 40 and this first draft (and the countless hours/days/months/years it took to write it) is my gift to myself.  Okay, that plus a rock climbing gym membership... 'cuz I'm pretty sure I deserve that too. ;)

You Never Fail Until You Stop Trying - Albert Einstein



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two Responses to "First Draft Complete! 
[BONUS: Sanity Still Intact]"

  1. Jerry
    Jerry on 12-09-’15 12:59

    Congratulations! So, what to do now that the easy part is done… :-)

    I’m only half joking. I remember in a on-line SF writing workshop back in the 80s (Orson Scott Card ran it!) he said that the real work would begin when a publisher gets involved. He said there was no experience like having your first manuscript sliced and diced by an editor. :-)

  2. A. Lee Ripley
    A. Lee Ripley on 13-09-’15 21:28

    Thanks for the comment Jerry. (I loved Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card so I would have loved to participate in that workshop!) :) I had the privilege of being mentored by Mary Rosenblum ( when I first started writing this book. She was my sounding board as I developed the characters, wrote up the plot outline and started on the first several chapters.

    Now that the first draft is done (and once I’ve edited the heck out of it myself, and circulated it to some first readers for feedback) I’ll likely be sending it back her way for a professional once-over so it’ll be as polished as I can make it before pounding the virtual pavement with the manuscript.

    Mary seemed quite enthusiastic about my early work on the book, so hopefully that bodes well for the rest of it as well! :) Can’t wait to find out as her feedback was nothing but spot-on in the past and I think she’ll be pleased. (Fingers crossed!)

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