I am days away from finishing the first draft of my current work-in-progress, the sequel to The Brass Giant. I’m over 90,000 words in and still not done despite the fact that my contract dictates that it should be around 75,000. Whoops. I’m trying not to think about the sheer amount of editing I’m going to have to do to bring the word count down in the next draft.
This book has had some unique and interesting challenges. It’s the first sequel I’ve ever written, which has its own challenges… The book needs to be similar in style to the first book but different enough that it’s not repetitive or predictable, but not so different that readers will be upset that it wasn’t like the first book. It also needs to ramp up the stakes and tension and continue the overarching story while both wrapping up its own storyline and leading into the next. Throw in a publisher deadline and the fear that no one is going to like it because oh my god what am I doing, and writing this book has been an exercise in skirting the edge of failure and despair and really though what am I even doing right now in an effort to produce an entertaining story for my readers.
Couple all that with the fact that I really hate first drafts.
I hate reading over my writing and seeing all of its problems, seeing all of the poorly written sentences and bad word choices, the character inconsistencies and the plot holes and the scenes that I wasted two days on that do nothing to move the story forward. It’s hard. I want to write perfect first drafts (who doesn’t?) but I fail every time. I try to tell myself that all first drafts suck, but my perfectionist nature doesn’t allow that. I should at least be able to write near-perfect first drafts, if not totally perfect. But I don’t. I write shitty first drafts, just like everyone else. Then I read published books and I compare the best of them to the drivel I churned out when I was half-asleep and frustrated with myself and unsure of the direction of the chapter I was writing. I tell myself that it’s not fair to compare my first draft to books that have gone through the editing process, but there’s always a part of me that doesn’t listen. I’ll always want to be a better writer than I am. That’s the nature of improvement.
Some days are easier than others. Some days are not at all easy. Some days, I’m mired in how badly a scene sucks and how I’m not getting enough writing done this week and how I’m going to miss my deadline and no one is going to like it when it does come out and what if they hate it… and so on so forth. On those days, writing is a struggle. I’m lucky to write 500 words. But then some days, for no apparent reason, I churn out nearly double my daily word count goal and feel like I could keep writing through the night. Those days are great. But too few and far between. I would love to be one of those people who can write three or four thousand words every single day. I would finish books so much more quickly.
I’ve been working on this one since the beginning of February. I’ve had to take a few breaks due to other books taking priority with my publisher, but I’ve written pretty steadily for the last four and a half months, and to be honest, I’m starting to get a little burned out on it. I’ve been working on steampunk this and steampunk that since the beginning of the year—writing, editing, writing, editing—and I’m so ready for a break. I’m looking forward to when this draft is finished and I can take a week to read some books and reenergize before diving into edits. Once it’s off to my publisher, I can relax a bit. Work on a few other things that are decidedly not steampunk. Do some art. Some crafts. Some not-writing things. But that’s still another month and a half away.
Looking at my outline, I have roughly three chapters left to write, maybe 15,000 words. It depends on how things unfold in the writing, but I’m looking at another week at least before I’m finished.
Writing “The End” is both exciting and terrifying.
It’s an accomplishment in itself, finishing a book, and yet, it’s also only the beginning. The journey from first draft to published book is long—and stressful. I will have more deadlines to meet, drafts to edit, promotional materials to write, decisions to make, more edits to do, and then the agonizing worry of whether or not anyone will actually like it.
But that’s still months away.
All I can do right now is take each day one at a time, write my words, hope it doesn’t suck, and just keep moving forward until I have a finished draft. The first draft may only be the beginning, but it’s also the hardest part for me. Once I have that, the rest will fall into place.
I just have to keep writing.