A Sense of Relief: Finishing the First Draft

Well, it’s done. After what was an extremely herky-jerky writing process, I’ve finished the first draft of Red Dragon Five, the sequel to State of Grace. Typing, “The end,” caused me more a sense of relief than of satisfaction.

Writing a second book after publishing a first is a daunting enough task. No matter how good or bad your first one is, the second one will be scrutinized more closely. Has he grown as an author? Does this one look like it was churned out in a few months after the first one was carefully crafted for years?

Now throw in the difficulty of writing a sequel. Is it as good as the first book in the series? Do the characters change but still remain true to whom they were in the first? Does it advance the overall story arc? How much exposition about the characters or events from the previous novel is necessary?

All this was on my mind as I sat down to pen Wolf Dasher’s second adventure. It is a stand-alone adventure, but it is also a direct sequel toState of Grace. I tried to make it both self-contained and dependent on the first novel. That’s not an easy thing to pull off.

There was also the stress of tryng to write the second book while publishing the first. I began writing Red Dragon Five during NaNoWriMo, but I was also editing State of Grace at the time, so that I could get it published by Thanksgiving. Since the first book came out, I’ve spent a lot of my time promoting it, which also takes away from the writing time. This is where being an independent author really sucks.

And, naturally, there were the times where I got stuck trying to figure out what happens next. For the first time, I plotted a novel three chapters at a time instead of the whole book at once. That was a very successful technique (I should probably blog about that in the near future) that allowed me to be a little more organic in the creation of the novel. But it also meant I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going to happen next. And I got stuck on the ending twice, especially since, as I wrote it, the ending changed from my original conception.

So it was with a tremendous sense of relief that I wrote the final sentences of Red Dragon Five. It was fun to write, but I am glad to be done with it.

Except, of course, that I’m nowhere near being done. The next step is to read it, and this is where I really cringe. I’m a big believer in just getting the first draft written — type it into the computer and get the thing finished. Don’t worry during the writing process how good it is. Finishing is more important than polishing at first.

But now it’s time to start the polishing process. This is where I’ll discover giant continuity holes, a shocking lack of detail in the descriptions, and general bad writing. this is where I’ll remember why you never publish your first draft.

Being an author is to swing on a pendulum of self-satisfaction and self-loathing. It’s immensely pleasing to get a book published, hear that others are reading it, and maybe even get a compliment or two. But a good writer is never really satisfied. The words could always be better. Going through this process will definitely inspire multiple thoughts of, “Oh, my god, did I really write that?”

But it’s okay. Writing is a craft. And I spent a number of years working as an editor. I like picking apart text and finding ways to make it better. I like looking for plot holes and inconsistencies and patching them up. I like shaping a story.

So I’m relieved the initial writing is done. Now the real work begins.

So much for that sense of relief.

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3 thoughts on “A Sense of Relief: Finishing the First Draft

  1. Pingback: Proof You Need an Editor « Pleading the Phyth

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