Lesson 1 – It's About Patience
This sounds simple but believe me, it's one of the hardest lessons to learn. When you've spent so long immersed in your first draft, you become ‘that person who's writing a book'. It is a sudden and strange transition when you finish that draft and suddenly become ‘that person who wrote a book'.
Job done, right?
Well, yes and no.
The fact that you've finished a draft is no mean feat. It is an accomplishment that many will attempt and few will achieve. You're right to celebrate and pat yourself on the back. And the urge to share the news is understandable. You'll want to tell your family and friends, your loved ones, your dog, your neighbours. You might well feel entitled – obliged almost – to spread the happy news across every form of social media known to science.
OK. Well, OK on the first few anyway. But please do us all a favour and take it easy with your onslaught on social media. There's a line between your natural enthusiasm and spam. I know it's hard to resist, but if you were face to face with people, would you shout about your book into their face, over and over? Now, the good folk on twitter won't take out a restraining order – well most of them wont – but they may well block you. There is already too much noise on social media – don't add to it. How about mention it twice over the course of a day and leave it at that.
At this point, you may well be so proud of your work that you might want to start querying agents and publishers or even publish your work yourself.
You are not ready.
At best, your first draft is like an artist's rough sketch. At worst, it will be awful. And I don't mean awful as in ‘weather' I mean awful as in…well, I can't actually think of anything that bad. At least, not something that won't cause massive levels of offence.
But don't worry. There is still hope. Like grieving, you just need to go through a few processes.
My draft is perfect and it always will be. It's my shining achievement, my lifelong dream become reality. My work is wonderful. I am wonderful. I am a genius who can just naturally get everything right – like Mozart. Maybe even better than Mozart.
Holy apostrophes – I've just noticed a typo. Wait, there's another. And another. And that bit doesn't make sense. How the hell did this happen? Damn. Damn. Damn. I cannot believe it. Do I really have to check through this whole bloody thing? Really? Really? Noooooooo. *lies on floor kicking and screaming*
OK. So it's not perfect. But maybe if I just check the spellings and scan through it for punctuation errors and maybe get my wife/husband/partner/Great Uncle Albert to read it through, it will be fine won't it? Yeah. In fact, I think I'll start sending it out to every agent on the planet because, by the time they get back to me, I'll have it all corrected – right?
Did I write this? No, seriously, did I write this? Only, now I look closely, it seems to have been written by a complete moron who doesn't even have English as their second language. It is stupid, worthless, pointless drivel. My dreams are at an end. I am not fit to pick up a pen, let alone a keyboard. *slumps on chaise longue*
This stage is where many a promising writer stops. Don't be one of them. Go easy on yourself. After all, you haven't done anything wrong at this point except you've been a little impatient. Take a deep breath and – hang on, I can't talk to you when you're on that chaise longue. Get up. That's better. Now, take a deep breath, remove that ludicrous smoking jacket (you are NOT Oscar Wilde) and proceed to the next step.
OK. I made some mistakes. Everyone makes a mess of their first draft. But, they fixed their work and I can fix mine. It is, after all, just a bunch of scribbles and typing. And there must be some spark of magic in there to have kept me interested in finishing the damn thing. Let's get to it.
Congratulations. You've made it.
You've understood that your book needs work. But there's a name for that work – we call it ‘writing'. And that's what you signed up for didn't you?
If you'd like to explore further the pathways of doubt, failure and generally getting your ass in gear (and you don't mind a bit of robust language – erm, better make that ‘a torrent of imaginative profanity'), Chuck Wendig has a lot useful material on his website and in his books. For instance, On Doubt, Talent, Failure and Quitting
To Sum Up
Finishing your first draft is a wonderful milestone, but it's only the first milestone. There are many more. You've started your journey. As you go, try and be patient. You never know, you might even enjoy it.
Join me on a Journey into Books
With my readers' group, The Awkward Squad