A guest post by Megaphone participant Tina Freeth, on the amazing milestone that is completing the first draft of your first novel!
FINDING THE STORY by Tina Freeth
As 2017 started, like previous years before I had half-heartedly declared some resolutions…the same old ones…lose some weight, see friends more, learn a language, learn to play a guitar, write a novel, etc. There is one resolution that I can happily say I have achieved (yes, it’s only week two of the new year!) and that has been to finish the FIRST draft of a novel. Notice I’ve CAPITALISED the word FIRST.
This has been a goal for many years. Alas, it’s only a first draft and my first drafts are not as good as other people’s first drafts. I’m not being modest or self-deprecating, it’s true. It’s not polished, it’s riddled with gaps, spelling mistakes and most likely many inconsistencies of character, plot, and description. I think I’ve called the character’s grandma something totally different at the end. And in my final scene I decided to give my character a slight quirk that hasn’t been present in the rest of the novel. But I’m going to write it in later!
I’m looking forward to rewriting it and rewriting it again.
It’s like the badly crocheted blanket that I started to make for my first child that I stopped making when it was the size of a tea towel. And like that first blanket it’s much smaller than I expected it would be at 40,000 words. When I began writing this novel back in April 2016, I was aiming for around 70-80,000 words. I thought I was writing a Young Adult novel. But getting to know more about the publishing industry for children and teens, I realised that I’m writing a ‘young’ Young Adult novel or ‘High end’ Middle Grade novel for 13 – 15 year olds and perhaps 40,000 words isn’t so bad after all, I can always add another twenty thousand when rewriting it. And I’m sure I am going to change things and delete a lot of it. Unlike that half-finished blanket, I have got to the end of the first draft and I’m looking forward to rewriting it and rewriting it again.
This year was about finding out how I worked when writing a novel.
All writers know that writing is in the rewriting. It is a work in progress and as I know from previous experience, my process for writing short stories works just like this. I’ll have a vague idea and probably a couple of main characters but I won’t know exactly where they want to go or what they want to do; instead I will know a theme I want to write about. It hasn’t been easy. There have been times when I’ve enjoyed writing the novel such as the time I decided that one of my character’s mum who can’t cook uses a system like BUILD-A BEAR where you chose what you want to eat from the stuff presented to you and you put it all together yourself. But then there have been times I’ve sat down to write and everything that I’ve typed is drivel and makes no sense or does nothing for the story. This year was about finding out how I worked when writing a novel. It’s not pretty and it’s not that organised, but it’s the first time I’m doing it so I’m going to stop beating myself up with a stick.
The group itself has been one of constant comradery and mutual support.
I’ve not written every day, or even every week, or even every month. It’s been sporadic and often tempered with moments of guilt (‘I didn’t hit my 10,000-word target for the month and binge-watched Netflix instead’), self-denial (‘I’ll do some tomorrow morning at 9am sharp when the kids are at school’) and the worst one of all self-doubt (‘I’m a useless writer, I can’t write a good sentence let alone a novel…blah blah woe is me.’). Yet, these moment have been interspersed with great days when you get to attend a Megaphone masterclass with published award winning authors who have been there been and not given up, and whose advice rings in your ears when you feel like you can’t go on. Some of the best advice was ‘allow yourself to write rubbish’ (Lee Weatherly) and Candy Gourlay recently wrote about the first draft being the one where you ‘find the story’ which all helps mightily. It’s not only been the Megaphone masterclasses but the constant support from our mentor Leila who tells people how good we are and props us up when we’re wilting from self-doubt and niggling fears. The group itself has been one of constant comradery and mutual support. I feel happy to have a body of work to edit and it’s taken a while but I’ve found the story. I’ve written down the bones and now to flesh it out and add the flourishing touches. Megaphone thus far has been brilliant and I’m excited for what’s to come next.
So am I – thank you Tina! 🙂