The First Draft

It’s starting slow. This is deliberate.

Part of writing a novel is driving in the dark and trying to see where the road takes you. Even if you know where you’re going the path you initially take in a first draft can lead you astray. Just like when you’re lost driving around country roads, you’re bound to take a few that meander and go nowhere.

This is what Anne Lamott refers to as “shitty first drafts” in her amazing book on writing, Bird By Bird. This is why, I believe, many talented writers never finish their novels or never decide to do anything with them if they do indeed reach the end. It’s so hard to make the average appear extraordinary. It’s so easy to see the brilliant and beautiful over the mediocre, yet it’s so difficult to actually pull of yourself.

My talent has always been to persevere and just get the thing done. I’m stubborn and probably foolish and surely way too hasty. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try hard. It doesn’t mean I have moments where I wonder if I’m a complete and utter failure.

So why, then, am I blogging one of those awful first drafts this year for the world to see? Good question. Maybe I’m a sucker for pain.

I’m writing a novel called The Howling Wind. It’s the first of a three-book series called The Hinterlands. Here’s a little description about it on this blog here.) The story is currently on Chapter 4. Check out the website where you can either read the novel or listen to the audio done by the guys at FrequencyFM.

Two and a half months into this project/experiment, I have to say that it’s strange. I’ve never realized how much a novel can change and how often I go back to tweak and correct or toss out material. I’m not doing that with The Howling Wind. If and when it ever becomes edited, I know it’ll change. Perhaps some material will be cut or majorly tweaked. But for now, when I post it I won’t change it (except, of course, when there are obvious mistakes that need editing).

My thoughts on the book so far. I knew that the first chapter is very autobiographical in ways. I hesitated to start with Will simply because I know some people might say oh dear a book about Travis no thanks. But he’s not me, just very similar in some ways. His chapter was okay in my estimation.

I really like the character of Allie from the second chapter. I’ve struggled in ways to figure out where to begin with her, and I like the way I did it. I was pleased with the overall chapter.

The third chapter—that’s a tough one. That might be one in the future that gets cut. In my mind it’s okay. I give it a C if I had to grade it.

The story is starting off slow, but that’s a conscious decision I’ve made. With the number of different characters in the story and all the things going on, I’m really trying to help any readers who will take the journey with me. It’s a massive work in my mind when I see the whole thing. So I feel like I have to take it slow. I don’t want to bore readers, of course. But I need to try to set the stage in a careful way.

I had a case of writer insecurity yesterday when thinking about The Hinterlands. A rational and sane voice asked me what I was going to do a few months from now if I knew there was only thirty people reading this thing? What if each post is viewed by fewer people? Will I simply quit and try something new?

I quickly shut up this voice. My hope is that I’m going do this and finish the novel and eventually finish the whole series. For this project, it’s about the story and about getting it out of my head and heart. I believe it’s worth telling, so that’s why I’m doing it. Is this the best way to do it? I don’t know. I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my writing career. In so many ways I feel like I still haven’t really started. But with almost forty books in print, I can’t exactly say that, can I?

I hope there are some of you who take this journey. Maybe simply to see what a first draft looks like. Maybe I’ll inspire some people to start and finish that novel they’ve been wanting to write. “If this hack can do it maybe I can, too.”

My head isn’t just full of the nagging, insecure voices. It’s also full of the blathering, braggadocious ones. Every day I try to balance them out. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer in the first place.

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