Thursday, March 17, 2011

Achievement Unlocked: Fifth Novel, First Draft Complete

Tonight I finally finished the novel I began during National Novel Writing Month. I wrote every single day, from the first of November through today, as a personal challenge. The first draft weighs in at 40 chapters and a staggering 120,234 words.

This has been quite a learning experience. I do not think I will write another novel by these rules. My usual style involves taking breaks from writing while I think things through, and it often involves backing up a few chapters and restarting from wherever the plot derailed. I did not do that with this story. As part of my challenge, I had to move the story forward every time I wrote. I could not go back and tinker with earlier chapters. That meant no fixing of errors that I knew to be present. That meant continuing to the end of the story with several characters who I already knew would disappear completely in the rewrites.

It has been a rough haul, especially since January 1, when one of my favorite aunts had a heart attack; she passed away four days later. My father, who has severe osteoporosis, fell on January 3 and shattered his hip. He is still unable to stand or walk a single step. So between my grief and worry, 2011 has provided me with a lot of dark days so far, and the year isn't even a quarter over. But I still wrote. I still made myself sit down at the computer and add to the story every day, even when it was the very last thing I wanted to do. On some of the worst days, I was lucky to produce two sentences. But still, I did it. I wrote a novel in four and a half months, instead of four and a half years.

I can honestly say that the majority of what I have written since January 1 has been flat terrible. But, as one of my friends often says, "Get it writ, then get it right."

And now, I have a complete first draft and, with the challenge officially over, the freedom to rip it apart and edit the living bejezzus out of it. The last half of the book might end up being entirely new. But that's all right. This should be the fun part.

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