Monday, November 28, 2011

"Adrift" First Draft Complete

So here I am. Just a tiny bit under 28 days since NaNoWriMo started here in Ohio, and I've typed the last words on the first draft (very much a first draft!) of "Adrift," the working title for the project I chose for NaNo this year.

Honestly, I think I'm in a bit of a daze. Before a few months back, the longest thing I'd ever written was a roughly 9,500 word long mystery story (technically, I suppose, a novelette per "prize" definitions which tend to cut off "short story around 7,500 words). I started in late-summer/early-fall on a very half-baked novel idea which I honestly have no idea if I'll ever go back to.

But, you know, if I hadn't made that first attempt a couple of months back, I doubt I'd be sitting here typing these words now.

For all of its faults -- and I'm sure they are legion -- my first draft of Adrift looks an awful lot like my original 2100 or so word notes that I typed up in October. There were definitely some major changes, some parts got emphasized, others de-emphasized and there there were more than a few twists along the way that fit with the overall arc but I hadn't expected. But it's done. And while it's nowhere near ready for anyone else to read yet, it's hard to argue that it doesn't fit the form of a novel. I've written a novel. And... Wow!

So. Now, what next?

Well, the first thing I'm going to do is let it sit for a few weeks. I need a little distance from it, because right now I think I know which parts I love and which parts I hate, but I suspect that with a bit of a passage of time, I'll look at it with some different eyes.

I already have steps planned out for what I'll do when I return to it. When I start reading it, I plan to build three things:

1) A scene/sequel breakdown showing each division in the story with a rough idea of how long each is, what it does to move the plot forward, etc. My hope is that this will show areas which need trimmed, expanded, etc.
2) A timeline (well, a pair of timelines, I guess, since this is a time-travel story). This way I've got dates lined up properly. More of a continuity thing than anything else, I suppose, but having these timelines for the final 1/3rd of the novel seemed to help me stay focused.
3) A character list including traits, descriptions, etc. so I can make sure that I'm keeping things consistent. And clean up all of those little notations like Mr. WhateverHisNameWas that crept in along the way.

If any of my readers have experience with taking a second pass through a book, I'd definitely be interested in hearing about your own thoughts on this. Thanks for following along with me as I worked through this project in November!


  1. Michael,

    First of all, congratulations! It's a great event when you finish a book like that -- I hope this is the one we get to read when we do our critique group!

    The only thing I can suggest to you when you read back through it? Read on no matter how much you want to change. View it as a reader first. Don't mark up, just take mental note and maybe a few notes after each chapter, but read it through with rapidity to see if you like the pacing and the tone first. Grammar can and always will have something that needs to be fixed; don't become an Editoriasaurus and molest your book right away!

    Oh! And put a month between you and reading it -- you'll want to read it now, but believe me, your eyes aren't ready. They'll be too critical until they've been removed from it for some time. That's what I do, at least.

  2. Step one - celebrate! You've achieved something that half the known universe intends to do "one day". This is a major milestone, congratulations, let yourself enjoy it before you even think about editing.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Rance. Yes, this is the one that I expect will be going through the critique group next year, barring anything truly unforeseen.

    Valerie, thanks for the congratulations and the suggestion! I was definitely part of that "one day" group until this month. I'm not going to let myself off that "one day" hook all the way just yet. Finishing a first draft and leaving it at that would feel like a form of let-down. But I'm sure that my friends and fellow writers won't let me get away with that.

    It's been really great having a community of writers around, cheering each other on!

  4. Nice job on writing a novel. Great accomplishment. You probably do this, but I get vicious with my word count after a rough draft. I play a game in which I see how many words I can cut and still say the same thing.

  5. Well done. I 'cashed in' yesterday at 50,430 because I was grinding to a halt anyway. A goodly portion of mine will need some serious revision.

    I'm impressed that you already have a plan for what to do next. I'm still too tired to think!

  6. Congrats Michael! That's quite the accomplishment. Your suggestions for a second-draft edit are also great.

    During my own editing, I've also found it helpful to write 1) the goal, 2) the conflict and 3) the stakes at the top of each chapter. That way, I can tell which sections are a bit saggy and where I can refine. If you have a local crit group, get them involved too. My group has been a tremendous help in turning my first drafts into polished final versions.

    Best of luck!

  7. Thanks, Stan! Yes, there will be some parts that need major trimming. There are also some sections that I think will probably need enhancing, so we'll see which way the final word count ends up going.

    Good work, MorningAJ! Congrats on passing the 50k milestone.

    Thanks for the suggestions, Nicole. I like the three things you pointed out for notating. I don't have a local crit group, but will be working with some people online next year. Hopefully that will help me see what's working well and what needs major modifications.

  8. Great job, Michael. Editing process is tedious but so rewarding at the end. I wish you all the success and, of course, great ideas on how to turn this rough draft into a polished version!

  9. Congratulations, Michael! If we can use past years as a guide, you are one of only about 20% of writers who "win" NaNo. Way to go.

    I recently read a post you might enjoy about setting aside your NaNo project and not opening it again until Christmas:

    As for the revision process, I use a tool I've found invaluable for the three drafts of my novel: a beat sheet. My version is a bit more elaborate than others I've seen. For example, I include the time line in it. For your novel, you could include two time lines! If you don't find Excel offensive, you might enjoy an article I wrote on beat sheets:

    Best of luck on WIP-ing "Adrift" into shape!

  10. Thanks, Angela! I'm hoping that process goes well.

    I appreciate the links, Daniel. Your one image there with the scene description, timeline, word count, etc. looks very much like what I can imagine myself coming up with when I get to that point. I hadn't specifically thought about using Excel for it, but why do manual math on word counts when Excel can do it for you, eh? Thanks for passing that along!