I don’t know if I need to breathe a sigh of relief or do some kind of celebratory dance right now. Maybe both. First one, then the other. I really wanted to get the first draft of the novel I’m working on finished before uni starts at the beginning of October. I’m not honestly sure how much time and brain-space I’m going to have after that, or how easy it’ll be to switch from crime nerd mode to creative writing mode. I figure the worst case scenario is that I don’t look at the book at all until the holidays or the end of the academic year, and the best case scenario is that academia and creativity actually sit comfortably next to each other in my mind and my life, and I work on the book regularly throughout the year. Either way, having a complete first draft is a good thing.
And…I have a complete first draft! AAAHHHH! Some chapters are much draftier than others but there’s something solid for every one and it’s ready for the first edit to begin in earnest. I adore editing. Of course it’s work, but it’s also a recreational thing for me. I love picking words and sentences apart, polishing dialogue and descriptions, all that good stuff. I don’t stress too much over contradicting myself, or events in the book not fitting in where they’re supposed to fit, because part of my pre-writing prep involves creating an extremely detailed timeline – not only for the book itself, but for the entirety of each character’s life up to the beginning of the book – that I can refer to as I write and edit.
Another part of my pre-writing prep is creating character reference sheets, but I get to know the characters even better as I write, and then even more deeply as I edit. Their voices develop gradually and sometimes they want me to change little details. One of them even wanted a name change. I’ve approached this project with less structure than previous work and it’s been the perfect approach. Giving myself the freedom to make massive changes – I shifted the whole thing from third person to first person during NaNoWriMo last year and I rethought the entire end of the book a while later – has enabled me to be more creative and grow as a writer.
Part of that facilitation was not giving myself a deadline to finish and publish the book. I still don’t have a deadline. And I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to publish it when the time comes. It might go on my website as a free download with a pay-what-you-like option. It might go on Amazon and/or other online platforms. I don’t know. And I’m OK with not knowing. Honestly, getting past the initial anxiety of working on a project without a deadline was such a huge thing for me to come to terms with and it’s made it easier to maintain momentum without a strict schedule of events. So there’s a lot of up-in-the-air-ness and a lot of enduring excitement and it’s all good.
When I first started outlining this project, the structure was based on the themes and symbolism of the major arcana in tarot, and the working title was 22 Cards. After the humongous rethink about the end of the story, I moved away from that structure and the working title no longer worked. For most of this year, it has been ‘as yet untitled’ or simply ‘the book’. I figured a title would arrive when it was ready to. And it did. As of yesterday, it’s called Winter Follows.
So I’m happy with where it’s at so far. I’m enjoying experiencing the creative process in its own time and I’ll keep you all updated about where I’m at. I’m considering sharing a few paragraphs here as I work through editing, because I really enjoy sharing tiny snippets in writing games on Twitter. But I don’t know and I’m fine with not knowing. Not just fine. Happy, even. Free.