First Draft Milestone

I am happy to report that today I completed the first draft of my novel. 105,813 words. Hurray!

My plan was to finish by Christmas, but the novel turned out to be a little longer than I’d expected so the beginning of January is fine by me.

I’m going to take the rest of the week off. I might actually read a book for fun, tidy the house, try and exercise my blobby body and treat myself to a few episodes of The Bridge. Then, next week, I will sit down and read the whole damn caboodle beginning to end.

I have no doubt this will be an utterly painful and disheartening process. Whilst reading, pen in hand, I may bear in mind the following quotes from famous writers about the revision process.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” — Elmore Leonard, Newsweek, 1985

“Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” – Samuel Johnson

“Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.” — John Updike

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” — Raymond Chandler

Cutting back seems to be the key mantra, particularly those sections of which you are most proud. According to Stephen King, the magic formula for redrafting is 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%. But whilst I am sure cuts will be necessary, I know there is also more that needs to be added. The last few chapters, for example, are severely under-written as I cast aside all but the basic nuts and bolts in my desperation to reach the end. And there are additions to be made to the early sections of the novel in order to make sense of plot developments later on.

However, at this stage, I shall try not to be too vicious with my pen. I shall try to stomach the ragged edges and the Janet and John prose. The main purpose of this reading will be to find out if I have a basic story that hangs together, more or less. If the answer is, as I hope it will be, a cautious yes, then the first draft will have done its job.

After that, let the real work begin.

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10 Responses to First Draft Milestone

  1. Fred Barnett says:

    Nice one! Really enjoyed it!

  2. Congratulations on completing the first draft 🙂 Have you thought about just reading it as a reader, before taking the red pen to it? I find it useful for getting an overall feel of the plot, pace and characters.
    Good luck with revisions 🙂

  3. claudia says:

    Yes, definitely Clare. That’s really what I meant about not being vicious with the pen right now. I’m just going to read and, hopefully, not despair!

  4. eddsnotdead says:

    Congratulations! Yes the next few months will be difficult but you have something to work on and that’s an achievement in itself.

    Well done and I wish you all success!

    • claudia says:

      Thank you Edd! Although the revision process is probably just as hard as the initial writing, psychologically it really helps to have got a body of work down on paper.

  5. Cathy De'Freitas says:

    Wow! Really well done Claudia for getting to the end of the first draft in such a short time. You have truly earned a day off and a few glasses of something nice!

  6. oooh that stck of printouts looks impressive – good for you. Hope to read it sometime…. x Lane

  7. Katie says:

    That’s such good news – congratulations on this huge milestone. Enjoy your week off… then good luck with the read through!

  8. Andy Wilson says:

    Hmm second draft equals first draft minus ten percent? Maybe that’s why Stephen King’s novel are so long?

    Perhaps that formula worked for him but there again most of his writing took place in a totally different era. The Shining, written nearly 40 years ago, runs to nearly 200,000 words. I’d take King’s opinion with the proverbial pinch of salt.

    I don’t think there is any magic formula. Why? Because every writer will have a different concept of what is meant by ‘first draft’. If you’re like me, and you throw in everything bar the kitchen sink, you might end up tossing out half of it, rewriting the rest and then adding a few new bits, with a final count roughly a third down on where you started. No modern publisher is going to entertain the idea of something as long as The Shining. Even 125k words will be considered long, though it depends somewhat on the genre.

    I’m going to try not getting too hung up about word count. But what I do want is for the final product to be tight.

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