The first draft of my novel is finished.
The first draft of my novel is FINISHED!
The FIRST DRAFT of my novel is finished.
Completion. Celebration. Anticipation of work to come.
Around 7 years after I first mapped out a story to tell, I have completed that plan – with one major revision made necessary by shifting social attitudes, and with a big sub-plot added on because it just seemed to fit. But in terms of where the story was supposed to end, I reached that point yesterday, typed the words THE END at the bottom of the document, and hit “save”.
I have a lot of feelings about this. The first is that I have only reached the end of the original plan. I fall somewhere between the “pantsers” (authors who “write by the seat of their pants”) and those who like a heavily plotted and planned approach, knowing exactly what each scene is supposed to do. I planned out the story in enough detail that I could always look at where I was and what was supposed to happen next, as a guide. But I also let my characters do their thing and be themselves, which often led to detours and also led to the introduction of that major sub-plot. Some elements of the storyline were strengthened, others faded or became de-emphasised from their role in the original plan (and one had to be removed almost completely – the major revision I mentioned).
The effect of allowing things to develop organically like this, was that as I approached “THE END”, I realised that real life doesn’t have endings the way stories do, and I was writing stuff like real life, albeit somewhat exaggerated, accelerated or condensed real life. The point of “THE END” seemed increasingly arbitrary and hard to bring to a distinctive point that would give me (and, I assumed, my readers) a satisfying pay-off. I started to redo the plan for the final scenes until everything could come to a final “this is what it was all about” moment for the disparate characters and sub-plots. Even now, I look at it and all I see are “what would happen next” elements. (I suppose at least that leaves me the option of writing sequels galore, which writers in similar genres seem to like doing.) There was a period when I was thining I would just keep on going until I got to a different “THE END” that wrapped up all those “what happens next?” elements more neatly, and then maybe decide where the break came then, so I’ve automatically got the sequel written already. But that, I recognised instantly, was just a form of self-sabotage. Just like the “Oh, NEW idea, abandon old one” sabotage that has plagued me from an early age, it’s a way of never actually finishing anything. I’m sure if I had continued to write, new ideas and sub-plots would sprout and somehow it would never reach “THE END”. I could have a merry old time typing away for the rest of my life and never have to worry about having a product, something to point to and say, “I did that.”
So, I typed the words “THE END”. I gave my characters their conclusions – wrapped in hope, pain and promise but with a lot of work to do. And I looked at the completed document and found that my conclusion, too, was wrapped in hope, pain and promise but with a lot of work to do.
A lot of work, starting with… The 2nd Draft.
I wrote the first draft in first person. I wrote it leaping from one narrator to another and back again – the two partners in the central BDSM relationship, then introducing the woman who challenges the leading female character, and occasionally the woman with whom the couple attempt a poly relationship. This device is not as cool as I thought it was seven years ago, but I stuck with it for the first draft because as part of the more “pantser” elements of my approach, it allowed my characters to speak more directly to me. Which is to say, I found it easier to explore and understand their motivations for doing he things that they were going to do.
In many ways a third person narrator is going to be a much better prospect for showing my readers the story, centring squarely on the leading female character as the focus of the story. It means re-writing huge chunks, substituting pronouns in others and generally making it all better than it was. It also reveals how weak I am at working into the text visual descriptions of characters while allowing the narrative to flow. So a lot of work ahead.