What do you do when you reach the end of a novel? Have you reached the end or are you still typing frantically? It’s fair to say that when you reach the end you may expect fireworks to erupt miraculously in the night sky or balloons to spill out of your immediate surroundings, streamers to squeal in delight and a general party spirit to wrap around you and everyone else that has been on the journey with you. What really happens when we reach the end, is we stop typing. And then comes the… quiet.
Time to Celebrate?
After the initial elation, a glass of wine, and a handful of calls to your supporters, you relax, truly satisfied that you have achieved what some cannot. You got to the end. You did it. You beat off your critics and quiet mutterings of a cliche writer and whacked them with the best manuscript you could manage. There you go. Plonk on the desk in printed glory. Yes, you printed it, just so you could see it actually exists. And it feels good. Really good.
Mature as a Writer
So now it’s time to let it breathe, much like the wine you’ve been allowing to breathe in wait for this momentous day. Then comes the silence. You shift around the house, watch television, listen to the radio, go to work, get some exercise and some weeks later it begins to call you back. And whilst you’re a willing victim, you’re a little scared of what you might find. Now steps in your own worst critic. You.
The Desire to Edit and Re-Draft
Gone is the elation of when you reach the end in completing your first draft. Now the real work begins. Every sentence is a piece of you. You glance over them as if they are your children who have behaved a little unruly. An extension of yourself. It hurts to see your characters described in such a way or tension cut too soon. But do not fear.
Over the past few weeks, your brain has been sprouting new ideas and fancies for your characters, like buds in a spring garden. They shoot from everywhere, take a life of their own and will not be tamed. Some are different from the way you thought your character would be when you first set out, and it’s possible that the thought of altering your character and their actions throughout may seem daunting. But fear not. This is perfectly natural.
As much as your characters have been evolving in your mind, you as a writer have been doing so too. Time away from something actually promotes growth. Your sub-conscious works overtime in processing what it knows, what it wants to do better and then as you take hold of the 2nd draft, you’re surprised by how much you actually want to change.
The first draft is sometimes referred to as the skeleton draft. This way, when it comes to the massive changes that you may make in draft 2, you will know it’s the flesh, muscle, skin, and bloodline filling out the story’s physiology. Everything added from this point carried life where the first skeleton draft could not. The first draft was just the bones, or the map, if you like. This is how it begins, in the full knowledge that a first draft will be the worst. No first draft is ever published.
This first draft will also be a learning curve. It helps you grow and develop as a writer and understand who characters are and what they need to become. With a better understanding of them you can attack the 2nd draft with more finesse. And, when you have a first draft to begin with, the creative pot of ideas explodes.
You will always be growing as a writer, you will always be critical of your own work, more so than anyone else. Clap yourself on the back every time you finish a draft. Don’t beat yourself when you find something you don’t like. And, remember that you are constantly evolving. Every draft you write, every book you create is leading you to becoming the writer you want to be recognised for. Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Follow your dreams, or someone else will.