95k in the first draft ... now for the hard work!

Yesterday at about noon, I finished the first draft of my next novel, tentatively titled "Thunderstruck", in the back of my favorite coffee shop in downtown Saranac Lake (Origin, if you were wondering). It is nearly 95 thousand words, and my experience (based on writing the last three novels in the series) is that the final product will be a bit longer when all is said and done.

I sent the document to my first reader in multiple formats shortly after finishing, and then this morning printed out a copy for an initial read-through ... there's something about reading and marking and flagging a printed copy that just isn't there with electronic forms.

95k words translates to 204 pages in 8.5X11 paper, and probably a bit more than 300 pages in the size that I tend to print my books, but that's a discussion for much later in the process (maybe January).

What happens today is that my reader/minion begins working her way through the novel, looking for story continuity, character development, unintended cliffhangers, slow stretches, nonsense, and the too-frequent use of the word "frangible" ... we're trying to find and fix big-picture issues with the book on this go-around.

Once she's done, and we've had a talk/meeting/drink/debrief, I'll head back to my lonely writer's garret to try and cut and prune and graft and polish the first draft into a second draft. If all goes as planned, I'll then share that product with a slightly broader audience, and go through the same thing again. Eventually, with sufficient 'rinse and repeat'-ing, I'll end up with a story that pleases most of the people most of the time.

It's important to keep the Neil Gaiman quote above in mind ... readers can find the problem with your work, but very seldom can they give you the secret to fixing it (that's all on you, or in this case, me).

It's a long process, but it's generally more fun than going to the dentist, and in this instance, I've got what I think is a pretty good story to work with as base material.




The finish line

I'm almost done writing the first draft of my fourth novel, and I'm terrified ... like always.

What if it's not any good? What if people don't like it? What if the ending makes people want to throw fruit at me, or worse, just scratch their heads.

What if ....

I generally defer to Sir Stephen (I knighted him myself more than three decades ago when I devoured everything of his I could find over a summer vacation) in all things writing, but in this case I strongly disagree.

The scariest moment is always just before you finish!

In the months leading up to my (now) annual writing sprints, I get to know the story I'll be writing quite well. I'm quite well acquainted with main and secondary characters, storyline, setting, and the arc my story will be following long before I ever start typing. I may not know exactly what happens at every twist and turn ahead of time, but I can see the beginning, numerous waypoints along the journey, and roughly where/how the tale ends.

I've written three novels prior to this one, so I know about beginnings and middles, know I can do the writing involved in a monthlong writing sprint ... but the endings still give me the wiggins.

When I get to the final days of writing - the last few thousand words, after the climax, tying up loose ends and aiming for neatness - that's when I'm scared.

I'm probably three to four thousand words from the end of "Thunderstruck" (which is how I've been thinking of the novel, although I'm not sure that's the name it'll wear when it hits bookstores, hopefully in January of 2016), and I know which ends need tightening, which threads may require some trimming/neatening, and have a few ideas for things that I need to go back in and fix before I put the first draft down for a nap.

Once I'm done with the first draft, I generally put the thing away for a week or two to let the madmen in the back of my head think about it, while I consciously think about something - anything - else.

I'm always nervous about the last day (or days) of writing, and find myself second (or third, or fourth) guessing myself. I am suddenly overcome with doubts about characters, worries about subplots, new ideas for twists and turns. 

I've been writing this novel with gusto and abandon and joy, and now find myself tiptoeing up on the ending, slightly unsure and hesitant. 

I wrote to a background accompaniment of brash and bold music, and too much coffee, and now feel my fingers scrolling past my writing mix and wandering down towards Mozart or Bach.

I'll bear down and finish the thing this weekend, enjoying just the right amount of peace and quiet and stimulus and noise and coffee and music at Origin Coffee, my new favorite spot to write in Saranac Lake.

If you want to see a writer in anguish/turmoil, then swing by sometime between 6:30 and noon ... I'll be there, figuring out how to close down the amusement park I've been enjoying all summer long.

Send me a shot (of espresso!), wave, smile, give me a thumbs up, send some luck my way ... I'll be grateful.

Thanks for all of your support!