How I finally wrote my 1st novel draft

Writing a 1st draft for my novel wasn't easy. It involved a lot of inner turmoil, and a number of attempts. Here's what happened.

Writing a fiction book was something I had been wanting to do from my early 20s. In amongst the day-to-day realities of life and office work, that intention would come and go. It remained merely 'a hopeful idea' for a while. A pipe dream. And then I came across National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo is the # you might've seen on Twitter).

Wow! A whole bunch of normal people out there, just regular people, all wanting to do the same thing. Writing 50,000 words - a whole book! - in a month. Or, if not a whole book, a big chunk of one.

I gave it a shot. I felt excited and raring to go and... I wrote a few words before it fizzled out. Maybe no more than a couple of thousand words. So much to think about. Character, storyline, twists and turns... and an overwhelming thing to do when one's expectations were to write it, fully formed, all in one neat go. Just like a piece of homework. A very big piece of homework.

NaNoWrimo 1 fizzled out quickly. As soon as I skipped day 3, and then day 4, telling myself oh, it's fine, I can catch up, got the whole month yet, it wasn't too long before I was well behind, and it wasn't long before I was a couple of weeks in and, realistically, 50,000 words weren't going to get written in a week. It just wasn't going to happen. I'd let it slip away, through a mixture of perfectionism, procrastination and self-doubt.

NaNoWrimo 2 and 3 went in an almost identical vein. Lots of excitement and inspiration but, ultimately, the size of the task and my perfectionism stopped me. I barely got started. Perhaps I was trying to protect myself from failure, by not committing to the task ahead.

It felt like this whole author thing just wasn't going to happen. It was too difficult. I wasn't cut out for it. I'm not *an author*. I didn't receive the magical writer's gift from birth, and nor was I an author. I wouldn't be anyone famous, it's luck of the draw, that author's lark, isn't it?

And yet, I witnessed stories of others - just like me - who had used the internet to gather their supporters, their fans, and otherwise folks who were interested on them & their work and made money from their writing. Not just money, a decent amount of money.

Perhaps, dare I even say it... AN.INCOME. Gulp.

It was possible. And yet, was I capable?

Was I even writing to make money? They say if you're doing something for the wrong reasons, you shouldn't be doing it. And it's those who do it for the love, and not the money, who "make it".

But then I also hear that creatives are so often great at their art, and terrible at the 'business' side of things.

Which one was it?!

No, no, back to basics. I set out to write a book. That's what I wanted to do.

Only, when I'd tried 3 Nano's *then*, I was studying, or working. I had lots going on.

Ah, excuses. But this time, yes I was working, but I was working *remotely*. I had energy at the end of the day, and at weekends, to write.

So that's what I did.

On Day 1 of NaNoWrimo 4 I didn't have any idea of what I was to write about. But this time, I did something different. I set-up my own local meet up. It was super-easy. I picked a place near me, a time and a date. I submitted it to the forums, figuring it would be a bonus if even 1 or 2 came along.

I think there were 4 or 5 of us in total... I was pleasantly surprised. We talked, and then we wrote.

I started doing something called Reverse Nano, as I knew that taking advantage of my early enthusiasm could help before I enviably hit "the wall" partway through (well, in week 1).

But I carried on writing. On my own, and at a couple of other local meets I either ran or turned up two.

On 30th November, I think I had 6-7,000 words to write. Back in the first couple of days of Nano, I think I'd managed 3-3,500 at best. This was a mammoth task. Had I failed, again? It was certainly looking that way.

I spent around 3 hours at a final write-in, with a friend who I'd met for the first time at that very 1st write-in I hosted, Katy. Together, we wrote away, and hit our 50k targets.

At around 11.58pm, I hit mine. Somehow, I'd done it. I don't quite know how, but I did.

I did it.*

I had 50k words written. I felt... relieved, more than anything.

That last week had been really tough. Inspiration and motivation was fading, like it had done in my previous 3 Nano attempts. It felt like that target was, as in the years before, out of reach.

But, somehow, I mustered up the energy to type away like Jim Carrey's character in The Mask and hit the 50,000-word target.

It felt good. It also felt like I needed a holiday, or at least a break from this manuscript.

*though I completed it 2 minutes before midnight, by the time I'd breathed a sigh of relief, let it sink in, and then logged into NaNoWriMo to upload my final words to reflect I'd completed the challenge… it was past midnight, and I had to change the timezone for it to let me mark the challenge as *successful* (but Katy is my witness! lol)

PS. In next week's post, find out how I went from 50k draft to completed 1st draft.



Sunday 21.07.2019