I finished my first draft, the first draft of any novel I’ve ever started, last night. I start a lot of things but don’t finish them, so this felt like quite the journey for me. This sub has been great to be, so I want to share a few things I learned from writing, from others, and from you guys that helped me out.
I started on February 1st and didn’t stop writing. I aimed for 1,000 words a day and hit it (almost) every time (I made up for it the next day if I didn’t). It’s on the short side, only 55,000 words, but the story felt complete there. I didn’t want to keep going, to add filler and unnecessary things to lengthen it, so for a first draft, it’s staying at 55,000 words.
It’s funny, I had this idea in my mind of my ending and what it would look like, and it completely changed. I’m a total outliner but found that my characters took me on such a journey and led me to places I didn’t even think of and, thus, the story changed as it went along. I’m all right with that because it felt more natural than a forced conclusion I’d planned from the very start.
I imagined a writer finishing a novel in front of their laptop, crossing their last T, kicking their feet up on the desk, lacing their fingers behind their head, and sighing with joy and a smile on their face, but I don’t know a single writer that does that. I like to think maybe at least one does, but it wasn’t me. I felt accomplished, but not yet finished. I still have more to tell, more to say, but nowhere to do so. I finished the story and now it’s time to put it inside my desk and leave it there for a long time. The next time I pick it up, it’ll be a few weeks from today, and it’ll look dusty and frayed, like something I found at a yard sale and neglected to fix up. Only when I’ve forgotten the characters and detached myself from the story will I go back and critically revise for my second draft, adding and removing as necessary, that’s something I learned from a great, published writer I know and countless others I read about.
This post is getting long enough so I’ll finish with a little anecdote. I have a friend who’s also a writer. He’s been at this book for a long time now, I want to say a year or so. He has this incredible idea, he says, and he wants to map it out. I told him to use Scrivener (not an ad, I swear, just love it) and he comes to me a month later boasting the program and how organized everything is now because of it. I say great, how much did you write? He says he has a few dozen pages of research, but no actual story written down. I ask him if he’ll ever get to it and he says yes, once he’s done mapping everything out. I thanked my lucky stars I have a partner that pushed me to start the idea I had the moment I had it, leaving research and mapping and worldbuilding and all those excuses at the door every time I opened my laptop to write. I just followed the story, and it led me right to the end of something beautiful.
I wrote on days I didn’t want to, and on days I thought I didn’t but actually turned out I did. What I can say with confidence is: forcing yourself to write can sometimes lead to good things, but you can’t force creativity. Sometimes it spilled out of me like an endless stream, sometimes the stream was as dry as a bone, but I kept putting words down. Were all those 55,000 words good? No. Are they there and completed? Yes, and that’s better than a couple perfect thousand on worldbuilding.
Tl,dr: Let your characters take you on the journey to the end, not the other way around. Leave research and worldbuilding at the door and just write the story, the rest can come later. Write even if you don’t feel like it, because water can’t flow unless the faucet is turned on, so turn it on and put those words down on the page.
Source: reddit post