October 5, 2021
by Joanna Penn
Reprinted with permission from The Creative Penn.
I have stumbled through to the end of my story, and now I sit at the end of the first draft of the first novel. So how does it feel?
I'm proud to have over 70,000 words of a coherent story in black and white. But it also feels like an anti-climax as I am nowhere near the end of the project yet!
People keep asking “When can I read it?” and I have to tell them “Writing is rewriting” (Michael Crichton). People don't understand that a fully formed novel does not emerge in a first draft! This is interesting and takes me back to when I used to feel I could ‘never write fiction' because I couldn't write like the greats. But now I realise that doing multiple drafts is a reality of a writer's life, but most people don't get that!
I feel like I need a rest before I start the edits and rewrites. It's been a hard slog writing in the evenings and weekends, like most people do I know. It is also winter here in Australia, tax time and I am still snowed under at the day job. I am tired of it all right now. After a little rest, I will feel ready to tackle it again.
I need help in the rewrites so I have joined Holly Lisle's “How to Revise a Novel” program – it is excellent. First lesson, ignore spelling and grammar. That is the very last thing to edit. Start with what you were aiming for, what you have got and large story and character edits first.
A while back I wrote about how writing is like Michelangelo creating David from a block of marble. The act of creation in turning a hulk of rock into a glorious sculpture. I was reminded of this at the Sydney Writer's Festival when one of the speakers mentioned that writing a first draft is actually creating the marble itself, creating something out of nothing first. Then the subsequent rewrites and edits turn it from a block of stone into a beautiful sculpture. So I have a block of marble – I need to get carving!
My main character Morgan is becoming clearer and I can add more in as I go through rewrites. I don't feel as if I know her completely yet, she still has some mystery. Perhaps that is a good thing…
The process feels more like laying down tracks, I've done the plot, now I need to go back and flesh it out, make it richer with detail and nuance, theme and interesting back story. I do like the story though and I already have ideas for at least 3 more in the series. It is a relief to find it somewhat resembles what I started with, and what I aimed to achieve, and the changes/surprises have been for the good.
My plan is to do at least 2 edits before Oct/Nov when I shall engage a professional editor who specializes in thrillers (yes, I am looking , please leave a comment or email if you are one/know one!). I will then fix the issues, rewrite and submit to Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in Jan 2011 and see how that goes. I am going to investigate traditional publishing with this novel series and will go to Thrillerfest in July 2011 to see about agents and publishers. I am all about trying all kinds of experiences, and this by no means changes my opinion on self-publishing. I just want to see how far I get with the process, and of course I will share it with you here!
Joanna Penn: Hello Creatives, I'm an Award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn, as well as writing non-fiction for authors.
I've written 30+ books and sold over 600,000 books in 162 countries and 6 languages. I'm an independent (indie) author publishing through my small press, Curl Up Press.
I'm also an international professional speaker and award-winning creative entrepreneur. In 2018, I was awarded Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World. My show, The Creative Penn Podcast, has been downloaded over 5.6 million times in 220 countries.
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