This is a post from 2014 that was lost when I migrated my site last year.
I did it! I’ve got a complete first draft of my novel, The Colour Fence (now Cape of Storms).
Over the last two months I have written over 70,000 words and now have a completed first draft of 106,000 words.
I am aware that the real work is yet to begin; there will be countless edits, revisions and drafts ahead, followed by the search for an agent and/or publisher…but, before I think about that, I’m taking a moment to celebrate what has taken me 16 years to achieve – a complete, rough, first draft. I’d also like to share some of the obstacles I faced, how I overcame them, and which books I found invaluable.
This, my first novel, has been marinating in my head since I left South Africa in 1998. The first working title, Crimson Handcuffs, came to me in a dream and it did not change for well over a decade because I did not write a single word during that time. While I had some good reasons for such a long delay, such as 4 international moves, marriage, and 2 children, I see that the main obstacle was simply not knowing how.
I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line I convinced myself that genuine writers literally sat down and typed out an entire novel, in polished form, in a couple of weeks. In retrospect, this little fairytale is the stuff that my internal assassin dreams of, and so it is little wonder that I never made any progress until after graduating, and immigrating to Australia, in 2007.
In 2008, I was pregnant with my first child and I had time to spare. With the threads of a story weaving together and increased confidence in my writing ability, I dispelled the notion of the polished novel on the bookshelf and went in search of how-to-write-a-novel research. Of the five books I ordered, there was one that really spoke to my where-to-start issue – Your First Novel, by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb. It imparted the genius of “carding the story” (Chapter 2, p 33), where you get a pack of 3×5 cards and write notes, ideas, character descriptions, scenes, themes (literally anything relating to your story) on separate cards until you have the outline of a book. Breaking the whole into small, manageable steps, was something that I had never considered before (DUH!), and, by the time the baby came, I had made more progress in 2 months that I had made in a decade.
With my first hurdle cleared, I felt one step closer to becoming a writer. Then the baby came and the concept of personal time became a thing of the past. For the next 4 years my novel slept peacefully while I adapted to sleepless nights and full-time motherhood to my daughter and son.
In 2011, the prospect of writing beckoned once again, but I was still immersed in all things children, and tackling my novel seemed overwhelming again. I decided to use the small-step-approach to write a children’s story. I saw it as a worthwhile creative writing exercise, not to mention a gentle step to reclaiming my ‘baby brain’ without stressing myself with the demands of a 100k word novel.
It took me a couple of months, but I managed to do it. I also found the gumption to submit it to an Australian and American publisher. 3 months later, I received a rejection letter from the Australian publisher, but, instead of feeling dejected, I felt like I was officially on my way to becoming a writer – rejection was merely proof that I was trying.
In late 2011, I decided that motherhood was no longer an excuse to neglect my novel. I made a pact with myself to write every night between 10pm and 3am (depending on my children’s unpredictable sleep patterns). After 3 months, I had close to 40,000 words and I was ecstatic.
Of course, life is rarely smooth sailing for long and the pressures of a single income called for immediate action and interrupted my novel-writing once again.
fast forward to 2014
With 12 months of blogging and creative writing practice behind me, a completed poetry book, and 15 weekly writing hours available in my schedule, I decided that it was high time to buckle down and apply everything I knew to my neglected work in progress. I started by reading through what I’d written in 2011 and then promptly deleted 10,000 words. Between 30 May 2014 and 30 July 2014 I have written over 70,000 words.
It has been quite a journey. A journey that seemed doomed at times. A journey that sometimes made more sense to quit than continue, but I have finally reached my first goal – a complete first draft of over 106,000 words.
As I move into the next stage of editing, revising and rewriting, I will be using some other invaluable books that I’ve discovered along the way:
HELPUL RESOURCES FOR WRITERS
The Little Red Writing Book
Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writer’s
What about you – did/do you have a psychological hurdle that delayed/delays you from drafting your first novel?