The Learning Curve of the First Draft

Terry Pratchett always said “the first draft is just you telling yourself the story”.

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot recently, especially as I’ve just reached the end of my first draft, and I’ve been comparing how I thought it was going to be vs how it’s actually been.

I thought that writing this novel would be exactly the same as writing everything else. Boy was I mistaken!

Writing this novel has been so much more challenging and exciting than I could ever have imagined. I thought I had a rough idea of the story and the characters before I started, but now things have happened that I’d never considered and I’ve totally fallen in love with characters who randomly appeared. I’ve had at least two characters stroll into my head, unannounced, sit down and make themselves comfortable.

It’s made me realise just how much of this story I don’t know – which always seems to happen right as I get to an important part and I suddenly realise that I’m not sure what happens next.

I thought I’d just sit down with my very rough bullet point outline and my character notes and just get the whole thing down in about 3 months. Instead it’s been five-ish months, lots of pondering and questions and leaving chapters unfinished, because I can’t quite figure out the words, and going back to them later. It’s been a learning curve of what works for me and what doesn’t, and it’s definitely taught me some valuable lessons I can take with me into the future.

It has also made me realise that I could also do with a little more planning next time… although whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.

First things first though, now I need to edit!