So I finished a novel: it took ages. Mountains rose and were worn down to pebbles.
Before I had finished project 1 properly, I started project 2, the sequel to project 1. That one I planned – unlike the first – so when I came back to it after a hiatus of 12+ months, having diverted myself with the completely unrelated joys of project 3, I had chapter notes and plot progressions that told me where I was going. That’s what we call a good thing: I don’t remember details like plot, characters and the point of it all between novel-writing sessions.
Over the last couple of months, ever since completing project 1, I’ve been working hard on the sequel. Three days ago, I reached a crucial milestone: I completed the toilet-paper draft. In my process, that’s the draft before the first draft: something that shows the bones of the story, and has a whole bunch of colour and cheerful exchanges but usually in the wrong places. The toilet-paper draft is plump with enthusiasm but thin on anything else, including grammar. It’s too rough to share.
Now, it needs to rest.
I’m looking forward to opening my metaphorical novel drawer this summer and reading the two drafts waiting there. Most of the 140,000 words those endeavours represent are nonsense but I think they could be kicked into something that makes sense. When I put project 1 on ice, I had no confidence that it was worth de-frosting. I have more confidence in these two projects. I want to take them to first draft, then second and third, even though I now know how difficult it is. Having completed the process once, I know what to expect, I know I can do it.
For the next few months, I’ll be busy with work and will not have the mental bandwidth for novels. So I’ll try to re-learn how to write short stories and forget about my draft. When I return to them, I’ll have fresh eyes. I’ve been living in the world of my head for so long now I frequently call my friends by my characters’ names. Although that feels respectably ‘writer’ it suggests that my brain is running in very small circles. It needs to think about something else.
But not for too long.