Friday, 14 December 2012

Fear and the First Draft

I’m coming very close to the end of the first draft of Hell Wood, my current WIP. Hurrah! But wait a minute... It’s only a first draft. I will type those precious words, THE END, when I get there, but one thing is for absolute sure – it won’t feel like the end. In fact, it will feel as though I’ve only just begun the journey. Even as I’m writing it, I’m thinking ‘Is it good enough? Is it as good as it can get? Have I told the story well? Or is it a pile of drivel?’ It’s better not to question it too closely if that hinders your progress, although sometimes that’s quite a difficult thing not to do! What’s important to constantly remind yourself of is getting the first draft down on paper. Then you can worry!
I will leave the first draft in a drawer for a couple of weeks, resisting the temptation to take it out and read it only by keeping myself ridiculously busy doing other things. But I know from experience that taking that step back from a story that has consumed your every waking hour, is an absolute must. It’s better to leave it even longer than two weeks, but, at least for me, that’s never going to happen!
Then I get the manuscript out to read and I approach it with those familiar feelings of fear and dread, and those self-doubting questions: Is it going to be awful? Is the voice clear? Does the story have a good arc? Is it gripping, absorbing? Etc, etc, etc!
It’s very, very unusual for a first draft to be dead on target, ready to be read a final time before being sent off to your agent or publisher. It’s only ever happened to me once and I doubt it will again.
Of course my “first draft” has been read and edited as it’s being written, and once the book is finished that process will begin again, and go on and on until I’m happy with the book in its entirety. The process may begin again when I’ve had feedback from readers, my agent, and my publisher... Basically it’s never over until the ink is drying at the printing press.
Then it’s the end.
But I’m not quite there yet and I’m panicking. It’s too close to the Christmas holidays. I can’t afford to take a week off because I might lose the plot, in the literal sense, and I don’t want to be the party bore who lugs her laptop around like a chain and ball! Instead, I’ve decided to write the last few chapters into a notebook by hand – something I always used to do a few years ago, but not recently. I’ll let you know how I got on in the New Year!
Happy holidays!


  1. I'm at the same stage! Let's feel the fear together!

  2. Savita, your blog post is full of wise words for any writer struggling through their first draft. Very good luck with it. I love the title!

  3. Keren, do you think the fear would be halved if we're sharing it? Hope so!
    Paula, thanks. The first draft of any book, whether it's the first, second or third book you've written, is the one that all subsequent drafts hinge upon, so, yes, it's the one that you question the most, for me anyway!