Five days to go for 2015’s National Novel Writing Month!
I was conversing with a writer today about what it means to finish a first draft. We went over the nuts and bolts of what happens after you write the last line of the first draft of your story. I told him I always put aside my manuscript for several weeks or more.
When I am ready to pick up my manuscript and read from cover to cover over the course of a day or two or three, I know that my goal is to read like a reader. I want to see with “fresh eyes”–and that means I don’t slow down to make edits. I keep a note pad by my side and I try to take notes sparingly, focusing on the big picture. Always my goal is to keep “inside” the story. I make note when something in the story or the writing pops me out and I become conscious that I’m reading (in contrast to experiencing the story the way I experience a good film). When I’m finished with my read, I jot down notes, thoughts, impressions over the next days. Still I give myself space before I set out a serious revision plan.
But there is another part of finishing a first draft and I imagine it as a “psychic ocean” where all the deep, internal currents swirl as they are stirred up by committing to flow and reaching a creative goal. I believe all writers experience conflicting emotions around “finishing” a full-length narrative, even when it is a first draft finish. Excitement, exhilaration, fear, anxiety, anger, joy, resistance, grief, depression, anticipation–any and or all of these might live between “I can’t wait to finish!” and “I never want to let go!”
So, today, I reminded my writer friend that he is finishing his first draft. He can and must revise if he is committed to writing his best book. (There is no such thing as a one-draft-wonder.) He will have time to take care of his baby, his book. He will protect it and hone it and dream it and polish it–until it can live in the world.
And my last thought tonight, before I head for bed: I love the company of writers.