Something interesting happened this month. I wrote a second book! Well, almost. I wrote about 57,000 words of a young adult novel that I hope to be about 60,000-65,000 words by the time it’s completely finished. This was an amazing accomplishment for me for several reasons.
I have a toddler now, and I managed to write a book. I had been afraid until now to try starting a big project because I didn’t think I’d be able to find time to do it between working full-time and being a mom. This month blew that assumption completely out of the water. I guess it’s really true that if you’re looking for an excuse, you will find one, but if you’re looking for a way, you will find it.
Another reason why I’m really excited is that I now have two books under my belt. Two! I mean, writing a book is great, but I had this inner fear that perhaps the first book had been a fluke and maybe I wouldn’t remember how to write when it came time to do the next one. These thoughts sound really silly now, but I think it’s something we probably always struggle with as artists. We shrug at our past accomplishments, looking our good efforts in the face and say, “Sure, I did it once, but I’ve surely lost all my capabilities for some completely irrational reason, right??”
This book was also different because I used extensive planning this time, with an outline, instead of “pantsing” (writing the plot as you go). I think that I found my preferred work style, because the outline really helped me fly through things and I finished writing my 50,000 words in 18 days.
I just wanted to give anyone following an update on my Nanowrimo journey. I’m very proud of my effort and also extremely exhausted. I need a break! And a maid. Oh, gee, my house is wreck.
Here I am, writing to you from the jungle of Nanowrimo. I’m in the middle of it. In the weeds.
I’ve been doing great. Every day so far, I’ve written above the suggested goal. I’m learning a lot about how to incorporate writing into my lifestyle as a parent and about how to just level up my writing speed overall.
But I think the most valuable thing I’m getting out of it is what I am doing this very night.
You see, I’ve been sick since yesterday. I have a monster cold and I ‘m stuffy, coughing, and incredibly tired. I didn’t get to write until after my kid went to bed today, and when everyone in the house was asleep, the last thing my exhausted body wanted to do was sit at a computer and type. I knew that it was possible that my kid would wake up several times in the night, and the mere thought made me even more exhausted. I had a word buffer of several thousand words, after all. I was ahead of my Nanowrimo word goal. I could afford to put it off for one day.
But I won’t.
Because this Nanowrimo, I have something to prove to myself. I want to prove that I can do this writing thing, no matter what. I don’t want to wimp out just because I have a “buffer.” I don’t want to let myself get cozy because I’m ahead of schedule. I want to challenge myself to write every day.
I want to bring it. Every. Single. Day.
And it really stinks, because I want to go to bed right now, but I have 1000 more words that aren’t going to write themselves.
This is going to be short, but I just wanted to share a new writing tool with you that I’m really enjoying. It’s called ApolloPad, and it’s completely free (for now)! ApolloPad is a word processor and novel/story management software that is completely online, and they even back up your data. Because it’s all online, you can access your stories from any device. It has many feature similarities to Scrivener, which is an excellent product also, but is not free. I have purchased Scrivener but never really adopted it into my writing process because of its complexity. The main advantage I see for ApolloPad, aside from the fact that it’s all online, is that it felt much, much simpler to use and less overwhelming. Maybe you should give it a try! That’s all for now.
Hola! It’s been a long time, friends. I’ve moved yet again to a new home, which is making me think of the early days of this blog when I discussed moving into a tiny apartment in order to pay off our debt. Our family went through many changes recently, including my son starting daycare. I took a break from the blog during this time to adjust, but now I am back and ready to continue chronicling my writing journey.
I’m currently seeking agent representation for my 169,000-word science fiction. My hopes are high and I’m ready for this next big step.
I have ideas for 2-3 other novels at the moment, and I’m excited to get some time to start working on those in the future, as well as a few dozen short stories that have popped into my head over the last few months! It’s been an exciting journey so far with this first book and I know that it’s only the beginning. I’m enjoying writing, and the writing community, so much.
This is the verdict after writing and editing my first novel: I want more! I want to do this more, and on and on, for the rest of my life. I want to improve, learn, and meet other writers. I want to fill up with reading and life and the company of writing colleagues, and then I want to pour it all out into writing. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If you know of any agents (or if you are an agent visiting), feel free to send me any leads.
I guess it’s time to talk. I’ve been avoiding you, reader. Not because you’ve done anything, no. Just because I haven’t had much to say. Just because I am working my tail off at a lot of things that are really important, but at the same time are not all that interesting to hear about because they involve small actions done consistently over time.
No dramatic announcements or updates. Just dirty, boring, sweat. Just showing up every day and doing the things I need to do. Not glamorous. Not interesting.
But it could lead to things that are more interesting.
On New Year’s Eve, I finished the second draft of my novel (yay!), which is also the reason why I did not post here in December. All of my creative efforts were funneled into that draft.
The Importance of Multiple Drafts
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of revision in writing. It’s a huge milestone to create a second draft because it signals a fundamental change in the status of one’s manuscript. Instead of being as substantive as a puddle of unset jello, it’s looking more like the consistency of a beautiful cheesecake!
Or, to use another metaphor, a piece of writing is like a cake. Your first draft is pretty crappy, kind of like your first attempt at making a cake from a box mix. Maybe only your loved ones are willing to look at it, and even they have to reach a bit to compliment it. “Oh, it looks so nice,” they say. Really, though, a child probably could have done it. And maybe that child wouldn’t have confused salt for sugar. Oops!
You’ve definitely accomplished something, though, and a crappy cake from a box is better than having no cake at all. This draft is crucial. You have to start somewhere or you can never get better!
Your second draft is really something to be proud of. It looks like the sort of cake you might order from a big chain store. Nothing mind-blowing to be sure, but it has the look of something professional. The design and other choices make sense. You started using some proper tools, and it really shows up on that icing. People will probably be really excited to consume this, and they might be pretty impressed that you created it!
So what happens if you persevere and keep improving upon that draft until you get to your 3rd+ draft? That’s when you end up with something that has finesse and artistry. The draft has a cohesive theme and style, and you can tell that every choice was made deliberately and executed beautifully.
There are layers upon layers of complexity: the cake might have tiers and multiple fillings and realistic-looking sugared garnishes. You start using phrases like ganache when describing your creations. No regular person could make a cake like this. It takes skill and years of training. It might even have a simple design, but it will nonetheless be executed with expert precision. This is the final draft.
If my predictions and hopes are correct, my journey from second to third draft will be a bit less strenuous than the immense jump from the first draft to the second draft.
I Finished my Store-Bought Cake Draft!
My goal for December was to finish my second draft. And lo, right on the 31st, I finished those edits. I had pregnancy-friendly sparkling grape juice and my husband cooked my favorite food (steak!) in support. There was much celebrating and feasting in the Bennett house that day.
But something that surprised me, something that I haven’t heard many other people or writers discuss, is how I felt after finishing that draft. For months and months I’ve been striving toward the same goal: to get my draft ready for other eyes (finish the 2nd draft) before my baby arrives. I’ve used all kinds of different tactics to achieve that goal: I’ve been waking up early, squeezing in writing time during lunch breaks at work, and staying up late. I gave up several of my downtime activities like playing video games or watching much TV during the week. I even scaled back some of my involvement in certain writing critique groups in support of my one goal.
With all those sacrifices in mind, I think I expected to feel a sense of relief when the great effort was over. I imagined I would feel a tremendous sense of achievement and that my whole being would be able to relax in knowing my goal was met and that my book was solidly on its way out into the world. I thought I would feel less stressed knowing that the hard work of my book would be already done before my child arrived and upended all my routines.
I am incredibly happy and proud and relieved to have met my goal, but the overwhelming feeling that was biggest after finishing that draft was something else. The word that best describes it is emptiness.
Emptiness upon meeting my big stretch goal. Is that bizarre? In the week after I met this goal, I felt as though I were missing something or someone in my life! I felt like a drifter with no purpose. My new free time felt more like a chore that I had to take care of somehow rather than a freedom.
I missed the crazed, deadline-induced mania of putting my all into something and to have a clear purpose for every unused moment. I realized that the process of creating this second draft, which had been so difficult, was something that I would actually miss.
I know the obvious answer to this feeling is to start working on the third draft, but I think it is important to give the draft some time to breathe, and also to let myself recover from the tremendous sprint that was finishing it.
So I’m living in this slightly uncomfortable moment and allowing (read: forcing!) myself to do some things I have not had time to do for a while (not to mention relax during my last month of pregnancy!). Movies, shows, games, play, leisure, and socialization. These things are important too.
That’s why I’m dedicating at least this week to relaxation and reconnecting with the parts of my life that have been pushed out of the picture for a while. After that, I’ll be looking for beta readers and turning this average little store-bought cake draft into a refined, tiered, wedding-cake draft!
What about you? Do you ever have a sense of loss after finishing a big project? Did you ever have an experience where you expected to feel one way and ended up feeling something completely different? If you’re a writer, what metaphor would you use to describe the unskilled, glorious mess that is your first draft?