The End Is Really The Beginning

Over the weekend my excitement and sense of victory was growing.

I was ever closer to finishing the first draft of one of my current WIP’s, Black Hare Valley. To recap, I had the idea for this book a few years ago. At the time, my son and I were both reading Stephen King’s It and enjoying the new film adaptations of the story. I suddenly had an urge to pay homage to the master of horror by penning a story set in a weird and eerie little town, where unlikely heroes (ie teenagers) are pitted against forces of evil. That was all I had. I wanted to create a town though and came up with the idea of Black Hare Valley. This was because I am rather obsessed with hares. Around this time we had also visited a well known iron age hill fort and after a bit of research on folklore and magic, my ideas started to grow. But what we needed first was a map. So, my son and I rolled out a long piece of paper and together created Black Hare Valley. It was so much fun, and as the town grew, so did my characters and their lives. That was as far as it went at the time. I was busy on other books and my son didn’t want to help write it. I folded up the map and tucked it inside the notebook alongside some ideas, research and character bios.

Around three years later, last February we had a 5 day power cut and a two week internet cut. This made it impossible for me to continue editing my 4-book series ready for release (The Day The Earth Turned) or work on what was my current WIP, the spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In The Side; working title At Night We Played In The Road…

With no TV or internet, surrounded by candles and fairylights, I decided to pick up that notebook and unfold that map. I had an idea of how and where to start the story and thought I would just kill some time by writing the first paragraph. The paragraph morphed into a chapter, followed by another, and another, and another. I was then fully immersed and addicted and before I knew it, I had filled a notebook and started another. Since then, I have been scribbling down this story most days. There was a three week break in May where I concentrated on editing priorities and the release of the book I co-wrote with author Sim Sansford, (Hangman’s Revenge.) Also, I was abit stuck.

I had reached a point where I seemed to be heading towards some sort of climax but at the same time, I wasn’t sure what it would be or how it would happen or even what it would mean. This stuck feeling was made worse by the fact I had not yet gone back and read through anything I had written. It’s easier to do this when using Word on the laptop – with a scruffy notebook and illegible handwriting, it’s a bit tricky. So I just kept going, adding notes, extra ideas and so on to the front of the first notebook where my planning and character bios were. One day on a long walk I got the ending in my head and it all made sense. I was nearing the finish line and it felt great!

Knowing how it would end spurred me on and I wrote several chapters last weekend, just trying to get it down. Finally, on Monday night I wrote the last chapter, the last paragraph and the last sentence, followed by those delicious, victorious words; The End.

I felt amazing. It always feels amazing to know you have got there. You didn’t give up. You battled through plot holes and writer’s block of varying degrees, time constraints, lack of energy and all the other books wanting you to work on them! I did it! I was so happy, so excited and I still am.

Now though, the real work begins. For the end is really the beginning. I have a town, some characters, (all of whom need fleshing out, particularly with work on their families and back stories) I have a plot I really need to check through, ideas I need to embellish, scenes I need to add and a whole lot more. In short, the second draft will feel like the real story is being written. What I have here in these five scruffy notebooks, written in my horrific handwriting, covered in question marks and lines and arrows and bubbles of thoughts, is a skeleton waiting to be fleshed out. Waiting to come fully alive. I have the bones of a story, the beginnings of characters, and the idea of a world.

The second draft is my favourite because you find out what you have done. At this point, I am excited and in awe and I feel a bit like someone else wrote it! Was that really me, filling notebook after notebook, at night, in the car, while cooking dinner, by candlelight? Yes, it was me, but I feel like the real me is the one who has to now pick this thing apart and make it shine, make it work. The real work starts now. Well, not immediately now because I am going to give myself a break from it to let it breathe, and so that I can pay the same level of crazed addicted energy to my other WIP.

The first draft is a slog; a hesitant crawl to the finish line plagued by self-doubt and blocks of all sorts. It’s a battle, no doubt. The second draft is seeped in victory but its where things start getting technical. I am really, really looking forward to it. I know there will be countless drafts after the second to really polish it up, respond to beta reader feedback, edit, revise, edit, proofread and so on. But the second draft is all mine. It’s me and this book alone in a room and I cannot wait to get started!

Why I Love Writing # 5; Sometimes It’s Pure Magic

Actually, it’s pretty magical most of the time. Of course, there are days when it feels like anything but. When you’re revising the hundredth draft of something, when you feel like it’s a complete waste of time that no one will ever want to read. There are days when you don’t want to do it, days when you feel rejected and uninspired and full of self-doubt.

But the magical days for me, outweigh the negative ones. They can happen at any time during the creation of a finished novel. I often find the writing of a first draft a magical thing. That first line, first paragraph, first chapter is so daunting, so impossible, yet suddenly you’ve done it. It’s there. And then strange things start to happen. Magical things.

Characters you had a loose idea of start to come alive. They flesh out and invade your mind. They start talking to you and you talk back. That’s magic. The magic of make-believe. And then there’s the plot itself. I often have a good idea of what’s going to happen in a book before I start writing, and I would have made lots of notes before starting the first draft, but at some point, something else seems to take over. Unexpected things happen. The plot takes another direction, or parts of the story start to weave together in ways that are genius, but like something out of my control. Sometimes it feels like there is something else at play, controlling the whole thing.

take-532097_640

Often I know where I am going, but not how I will get there. I never worry too much about the finer points because I have learned to sit back and let the magic happen. And it always does. Out of the blue, never when I expect it to, it will all just come together. This happened to me recently with the six book series I am working on. Books 1-4 are written, and book 5 has had one very rough draft. I knew roughly what I wanted to happen in book 6, what storylines would be continued, but I didn’t know how I would end the book, or indeed, the whole series. I didn’t stress about it because I still had work to do editing books 3 and 4, and book 5 to write a second draft of.

But one day, out walking, it just suddenly came to me. My mind pieced it all together without me even trying, without me even consciously deciding to think about it. I suddenly just had it. How to end the book and the entire series, and it was perfect.

How does that work? How does that even happen? I have no idea, but like I’ve already said, sometimes I really feel like it’s not me in my head, working things out. Moments like that are so satisfying, and magical, they make all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.

Second Draft Joy

Back in December, I penned this post Why My Favourite Draft Is The Second, while I was busy writing the first draft of a YA novel called A Song For Bill Robinson. I was enjoying the first draft, but also realistic about its ugliness, and I was excited about going back to the second draft for the reasons I mentioned in the post.

Well, three months on, I am now well into that second draft, and enjoying it every bit as much as I said I would! It is easier than the first because the basic framework is there and the hard work has been done getting the story out of my head. I already know I can make it better and I have already listed and made notes of how to do this. The second draft is just fun!

I had to have a think about this earlier. Has this been the case with all my books? And I think the answer is yes. The first draft is the hardest for me. The later drafts are the most tedious because you know the story, and really you want to be writing something new, but you have to polish this thing up, cut bits out, sharpen it and refine it and make it as good as it was when it first appeared in your head. I think of the first and the final drafts as the real hard graft. The second, for me, is much more fun.

can you tell I'mhaving fun-

In many ways, the second is more of a read through than a rewrite or a detailed edit. After a break, I am familiarising myself with the story and getting to know the characters again. I read through each chapter, getting a sense of them and their motivations, making notes and finding my way back into it all. Of course, I fix any typos I come across, and I do a lot of deleting unnecessary and repetitive words or phrases. I tidy it up as much as I can, but at the same time, I know the more brutal cuts, the reshuffles and the changes in direction will all come much later. This is still very early days, and I want to enjoy it. I don’t feel the need to make any major decisions at this point.

At the moment, I am totally addicted to this particular story, which is also how I felt when I first wrote it. I suppose it’s more familiar ground for me as an author and a person. A gritty, contemporary YA drama with lots of dysfunctional family behaviours and social issues thrown in. I feel a passion for it. I want to tell these stories. And there are so many stories in this novel…

It’s fast paced. Which is good. I hope! On later drafts I might feel the need to slow things down a bit, my niggling worry being that it might come across as unrealistic for teens to have a life this dramatic. It’s literally a roller coaster of events, repercussions, consequences and drama. It’s full of highs and lows with plenty of unrequited love, dangerous lust, and familial miscommunication and resentment. Oh and of course, a rather wonderful soundtrack (the male protagonist is a talented singer) which ranges from The Four Tops and The Foundations, to Arctic Monkeys and Jamie T. There is just so much to play around with!

And I know I haven’t got it all right yet. I know I need to keep fleshing out the characters and finding stuff out about them. I know I need to work on the visuals, the environment, such as their homes and bedrooms and so on. I tend to forget about all that stuff on a first draft, knowing that no one else is going to read it for a long time. I just want to get the nitty gritty down first.

But at the moment I am enjoying the ride, and just felt the need to share that with you. Adding bits and cutting bits. Reading it like a reader and bloody enjoying the process. I can’t get enough of it.

I doubt I will feel this way by the time draft ten comes around, so this is why I savour the second draft so much. I know the time will come when I almost come to hate this book. I have been there with The Tree Of Rebels many times, and Elliott Pie reached that point just recently before I sent it out to a second round of betas. I was sick of it. I am sick of it. Diving into this much fresher book has been just what I needed.

So, for me anyway, I give my thanks to the wonderful second draft, with the foundations laid down and the really hard work yet to come. I shall enjoy the party while it lasts.

 

Why My Favourite Draft Is The Second

Writing the first draft of a novel (as I am doing right now) is wonderful and scary and full of surprises. There is nothing quite like the exciting moment you first put down words to see where they go. Also, if you have been spending a lot of time revising and editing, writing something brand new and fresh, is just glorious. If you’ve had to push back ideas and ask noisy characters to wait their turn patiently, finally starting that first draft is just about as exciting as it gets.

However, the first draft is also tricky. It’s entering unknown territory. You may have a plan and a plot, but things change, things happen. Sometimes the characters take over and throw constant spanners into the novel you had envisioned! It is also a draft full of self-doubt. Is this working? Is this rubbish? Then there are the bits that drag. It’s slowing down, what do you do?

download-20

Writing your first draft is an exhausting, nerve-wracking business. Compare that to the frustration and tedium that sometimes accompanies the third, fourth or fifth draft, and you might understand why the second draft of a novel is my absolute favourite. Here is why!

  1.  Because it’s surer, more confident than the first. It has a clearer idea of where it is going and why
  2. It is usually a hell of a lot better than you thought it was! Writing the first draft I am often telling myself how clumsy and awful it is. Going through the second, I tend to get a pleasant surprise. It’s actually not that bad!
  3. The journey has been mapped out and the plot is staked into place. Yes, things still could change, but the solid basics are there. The journey is basically filled with less trepidation
  4. The characters have come alive and introduced themselves properly. They were a tad shy to begin with, but that is so not the case now!
  5. The characters have taken control and surprised me. They’ve taken the wheel from my hands and even changed the direction we were going in
  6. The themes are growing in strength and making sense
  7. As I am blundering through the first draft, I can already see how much better I can make it in the second, and this is very exciting
  8. I’m excited to get back to the start again for a better effort with more tools in my kit and my knowledge about my characters and story
  9. The hardest bit is over, I’m now refining it, fleshing it, trimming it, shaping it and perfecting it
  10. I’m not bored of it yet! It’s only the second draft so it is still all shiny and new!

images-16

How about you? Which draft do you enjoy the most? Which one is the worst or the hardest? Please feel free to comment and join in the conversation!