On Wednesday, I finished draft 2 of my novel! The journey isn’t yet over, but I’ve passed milestone on the ride. Today I want to discuss that, what comes next and how you can strive to complete your manuscript too.
It’s no secret that I wrote my book during NaNoWriMo 2019. I’ve written a lot of articles regarding that — but for new readers — it’s a challenge every year in November, where you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It sounds insane. And it is! Yet, I endured, and I completed it. My novel was a mess, so I did a second draft of it. Little did I know, writing that draft was when the real journey begun.
It took me seven months to go over the 50,000 words! I found a lot of them were rubbish, a lot of the story didn’t add up, and most of my ideas were just… bad. I found it a little demotivating. Believe it or not, when I completed NaNoWriMo in November, I told myself: “Finish the book this month, find an agent in January, and the book will be on shelves by February!”
I couldn’t be more wrong!
Even if I tried to publish draft 1 (which would never happen in a thousand years), finding an agent and publisher can take years! Sure, self-publishing is doable in that time zone, but that’s not what I want to do. My point is, it’s so funny comparing that to now; how ignorant I was to the market. Novel creation is hard and publishing is even harder.
But I digress!
We’ve spoken about publishing in previous blog posts, and I want to discuss finishing my second draft today. So over the past seven months, I went through my manuscript chapter by chapter. I found my characters were flat, and they loved contradicting each other, repeating phrases or bringing up ideas and forgetting about them two pages later. Draft 2 is all about where you bring your ideas together and give your characters personality. So, most of what I wrote had to go. I mean it! Out of the 50,000 words I wrote, I killed or changed at least 45,000 of them. Which raises the question: Why did you even bother with NaNoWriMo? Why did you write a first draft if you rewrote your novel for draft 2?
Draft 1 gave me structure. And while most of the content didn’t survive into draft 2, I had lain down the foundations to build upon. That gave me guidance in which to follow, so my second draft could shine the way it does. I focused less about what my characters were doing and spent more time studying how to make their actions stand out. In that regard, draft #1 is essential. The 50,000 words were the foundation. With draft 2, we put up the structure… What happens next?!
Yep. I’m coining the term. What is draft 2.5? It’s a quick, simple run through where I kill spelling mistakes and get rid of redundancies. This is important for me, because my novel is going to line editors at the end of the week. Whilst I’m using them first to find mistakes, I want them to enjoy reading draft 2. Because draft 2 is readable! We have a beginning, a middle and an end. So when my line editors come back to me, I want them to tell me about ideas that don’t work, plot points that are boring and characters that need developing. I’d much rather this than them pulling up a typo because I didn’t bother with this quick draft 2.5
But then we go onto draft 3! Now, draft 3 happens when my line-editors get back to me and this is the one where I plan to decorate our house. We have the foundation, the structure, and now I want to put furniture in and wrap a safety net around the house. By that, I want to flesh out whatever my editors consider the novel is lacking and put on a net up to catch whatever I’m missing. I can’t speak much about this draft, since it’s not happened yet. But when that’s done, I hope to have a novel I can send to publishers — but who knows! I thought I’d have that after draft 1, so maybe there is a draft 4 on the horizon.
What’s my secret? A friend has asked me several times how I endured for so long and kept going. He asked me to teach him, so he might write his own novel. The secret is it’s difficult. The idea is charming, the thought of sitting down and knocking out a story in two months, but the reality is an uphill battle. Your first manuscript will always be terrible. But there’s nothing wrong with that! Once you’ve got it down, you shine it. Yet many people will find it demotivating having to destroy their work. Kill their darlings, as the in-house terminology goes. And it can be. But you have to endure, stick to it and remember, if you delete something you can always put it back again. Keep enduring, never give up, set as little as 5 minutes aside every evening and before you know it, you’ll have something golden before you.
Thank you for tuning in this week! I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Remember to subscribe via email for updates sent directly to your inbox. Comment on your experiences in writing! And follow my Twitter to keep up to date!
See you next week!