“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
I wasn’t aware of Terry Pratchett’s words of wisdom when I finished writing the first draft of my first novel about 18 months ago but, if I had been, I would have saved myself much embarrassment.
It started at that exhilarating moment I found myself at around the 95,000-word+ mark and realised that, after weeks, months and years, I really did have a beginning, middle and an end to my story. I plastered my jubilation all over social media, before running off a copy of the manuscript and lovingly caressing its pages as I fantasised about a book deal, as well as audio and film rights.
Then, I had the nerve to start sending it out for people to read. Friends and family, mostly, who must have wondered if I had any command over the English language, let alone what it takes to write a book. It was cringe-worthy, and I am embarrassed by my former self.
Things got worse, after the first two or three edits, I started sending it out to agents. No wonder I never got any response. So I was brought back down to earth early reasonably quickly.
One year on, and I am just about coming to the end of what will be the final edit of… Draft number 12… I think it’s number 12, but I’ve lost count. So I’m a long way off seeing my book in print, let alone watching Renée Zellweger win another gong for playing the part of my MC and thanking me in her acceptance speech.
So the moral of this story is… don’t be an over-eager beaver. Be patient and wait before you celebrate finishing writing your novel because, if your hopes and dreams for your book are ever going to come to fruition, it is going to be down to editing. Hours of it, because the real work starts from the moment you finish your first draft.
Most importantly, please don’t think about sending your manuscript anywhere until you are absolutely sure that it is as good as it possibly can be, and you are confident you have a manuscript worthy of all your hard work. Even after you’ve done all that work, someone else will come along and make suggestions for further edits.
Just saying… it’s best not to start celebrating too soon. 😉