This is what I’ve been working on when I haven’t been doing everything else.

This is Draft 2 of the first novel I’ve attempted to not only start but actually finish. I don’t want to talk too much about the story, but I think it’s an interesting premise and hope it will be something people want to read.

Draft 1 was begun in early 2014 and was written in Google Docs. You know, in a way that’s easily accessible everywhere I go and which takes advantage of the technology available to me. When I finished it over a year later, though, I realized it was terrible. This wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. Or at least I knew there were so many issues with the draft that it would take a long while to go in and fix them all. The problem is I quickly found editing the document was frustrating. I felt like I was picking at small problems and not addressing the bigger ones. I was putting up new drapes in a 78-story skyscraper, not paying attention to the reality that I forgot to lay a foundation.

So I resolved to write Draft 2 by longhand and just write. No editing as I went, just get to the end. There were a few times where I crossed something out when I realized I had just started a sentence wrong or something, but other than that it was a sprint. Well…a sprint that took me about five months from beginning to end. The end of August was pegged in my mind as the due date for Draft 2 and I wound up beating that by a month, which feels pretty good.

The reason I chose to write longhand was it felt more like a method to really express myself in an extended way. I’m too used to writing on the computer in a way that encourages (believe it or not) brevity. So I didn’t really feel I was exploring some of the ideas I wanted to get out there. Plus, I decided if I wrote longhand and just got to the finish line then Draft 3 would be me taking what wound up being almost two full legal pads and fixing some of the problems and filling in some of the gaps I knew were in the story as I typed it out. That’s where I am right now, with the goal being to have Draft 3 typed and ready by December 1.

Over the last year or so I’ve been listening to a number of podcasts about writing and have tried to adopt some of the tips and advice the hosts and guests have shared about writing novels. Those tips include:

  • Write every day for a set amount of time: I really set out to do this and even created an action item in ToDoIst for “30 minutes novel writing.” That wasn’t always what happened, though, as I would sometimes go a week without touching it, mostly because I was stuck on a particular story point or just didn’t know where the characters were going next. So I put it aside. Usually at night when I came to bed I would revisit in my head where I had left off and mull what might be next. After a few days of doing so, my subconscious would usually shake something loose and I’d get back on track.
  • Outline the story: Yeah, that didn’t really work for me. That’s mostly because while I knew the end point I was aiming for, I wasn’t sure how I was getting there. Instead, I just let the current carry me along. It sounds cliched and terrible, but I let the characters get me there, evolving as they lived the lives I was giving them. In the end not only was the journey much different than I imagined – and vastly different than it was in Draft 1 – but so was the ending, which wound up being much more emotionally interesting to me than what I first had in mind.

After I finish Draft 3 I’m going to figure out what to do with the book. While I’ve been writing short fiction here and there over the last several months, something that’s been very interesting and gratifying, having even a hand-written draft of a full novel is a whole other sense of accomplishment. What comes next remains to be seen, but no one can take what I’ve done and the experience I’ve gained away from me.