Monday, 29 August 2011

The end of the beginning … or the beginning of the end?

This year has been marked by one desperate scramble towards a deadline after another, and on Sunday afternoon I slumped back in my chair with yet another ‘phew’ after finishing the complete draft of my time slip.  What a relief to get there – largely thanks to missing a party on Saturday and writing until 1.30 in the morning.  I’ve never written such a long and complicated book before, and I wasn’t at all sure I could do it, so I’m pleased with myself for even getting this far.

Of course, it’s only a draft, and the last few scenes are particularly ‘drafty’ as I galloped to the finishing line, but I keep reminding myself that the whole point of a draft is just to get the story down.  The temptation is to pull my hair out about all the things that are wrong with it, but I’m having a pause to do what I advise new writers to do, and think positively about what I’ve accomplished – all 116,113 words of it – rather than negatively about how much I still need to do.

That will come on Tuesday, when I brace myself to re-read the whole thing, and make notes about where the story needs to be tightened, what needs to be cut and what layered and textured.  I’ve changed some names and whole plot points as I’ve been writing, so they’ll all have to be sorted out too, and there are certain areas I’m going to have to do a lot more research … but I’m not going to think about that just yet.

I celebrated last night with a gin and tonic, a long bath and evening in front of the telly without having to force myself back upstairs to write.  Bliss!  And today I’m going to be happily busily, cooking - tomato tarts, roast chicken and Nigella Lawson's Slut-Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly - and getting ready for cards tonight.  A whole day not lashed to the keyboard … how happy am I??  I’m going to  make the most of it, because tomorrow it’ll be back to work.

My first job will be to draw myself up another timetable, and start planning a treat for when I get to the end of the next stage. I’m thinking a trip somewhere … Deadlines and rewards have always worked for me, and I’m very envious of writers who don’t have to coax themselves through the whole process.  

How do you reward yourself when you get to the end of a chunk of writing?


  1. Chocolate most definitely and the long soak in the bath. I recently did an 80k word challenge and felt so good at the end of it. Editing starts when the new term resumes and I have the house to myself.

    I feel more scared of the editing process than the writing! I know I can produce a first draft, as I've done it several times, but now I need to get serious and mould these stories into a publishable state.

    Any tips would be welcome. Enjoy your day off. Mx

  2. Congratulations!!! What an accomplishment.

    I'm still coming to grips with writing as a (second) job, rather than a hobby. As I careen towards my first real deadline (this Thursday) what I most desperately want as a reward is the time to read. I really really want the time to curl up with a book without any guilt!

  3. I read, by then I usually have a stack of books sitting on my kindle so i love to lose myself in other people's writing.

  4. Ah, yes, guilt-free reading - definitely one of life's pleasures!

    I'm not a chocolate person, Morton - savoury all the way for me - but I'm with you on feeling daunted by the editing process. I'm just about to sit down and read through my manuscript now, in fact. My plan is to make notes on the hard copy, but also write a list of extra research that needs to be done. And I'm going to be re-reading Blake Snyder's beat sheet from Save the Cat! to check the overall structure, and Elizabeth Lyon's MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER to make sure every scene changes something ... it's a lot to do, so I'll be giving myself some smaller targets to help myself through it. Good luck with yours!

  5. You print it out and then after editing, revise on the PC again?

    All the best with all your smaller targets!

  6. Yes, I can't revise on screen, Nas. I print out each chapter as I finish it, and then scribble notes on the hard copy as I carry on writing. So now the whole mss looks a complete mess. Now I'm going back to the screen version to rewrite, with my hard copy by my keyboard. In fact, once I'm revising, I'll do a lot of new writing that has no connection with the notes I've made, but the hard copy is definitely part of the process. Maybe there's an easier way of doing it, but it seems to be the one that works for me!