So, I have just finished Camp NaNoWriMo and successfully written 10,000+ words – yay! But I have been plagued this week by the doubt that these were the wrong 10,000 words.

I have never written a novel before so I had an idea and then just wrote it as I went along. I got to 70,000 words feeling confident that this was the story I wanted to write. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t know where to go with the ending and I felt confused and frightened about where to take the story. I have read so much about writing an outline before you start but I really didn’t have one, just the germ of an idea. So I thought, well, I’ll just write and see what happens. And now I am worried that I might have to rewrite large sections of my novel all over again because the ending isn’t what I want it to be and along with that thought, will come a sense of inertia. You know, I can’t possibly rewrite all that, it’s too hard, it’ll be a mess. So, I am not writing at all, I am procrastinating.
I go on holiday next Thursday and I don’t know whether to take my laptop with me ( I have never done that in my life!) so that I can write if I want to. Maybe all those people I have scoffed at on previous holidays, sitting with their laptops in the sunshine, were actually would-be writers like me, struggling to finish their first draft of their first novel and therefore not to be mocked at all. I need help, guys, and would appreciate any advice you could offer. Thanks 🙂


8 Comments on Finishing my debut novel :(

  1. Congrats on finishing! That’s a big achievement for any writer. I wish I could say I have my first draft done! I can’t stress enough that it’s okay for a first draft to be messy and imperfect – Anne Lamott repeats it all the time in her writing book Bird for Bird. The biggest step was getting down the raw material – you can’t fix something that’s not there, right? 🙂
    If you’re a bit lost about what’s going on with the story, why don’t you try listing out the main events of the novel? Just write them down on pieces of paper and see if there is a good flow. Feel free to rearrange them (I do this ALL the time, frustrating exercise but always satisfying). It may feel daunting to ‘rewrite’ sections, but what I’ve found is that it’s so much easier because quite often the bones or even the entire scene was already present in the first draft. Then try working backwards – does your ending fall in line with what you’ve set up earlier? Can you pack in more material to make it tighter?
    If the ending is being a big pain, let’s have a small spot of fun and punish it a bit. Go back to your papers of main events and imagine removing one of them from the story. Just yank it out of the order. How does that affect the progression of the story? Does it impact the ending at all? What results from it? It’s far from a call to write that probable ending, rather just worthwhile to think about the possibilities. Get the brain cells jogging about what could have been. It’s also nice revision. If you can take out a ‘major’ event with no impact on the story whatsoever, then it might need something to spice it up.
    Don’t feel obligated to bring your laptop. Chances are you’ll end up thinking about your story without it anyway! If you want to bring the manuscript along, you could try printing it out. There’s something nice about scribbling on hard copies. Enjoy your holiday and all the best with your writing! You can do it!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, munchkinwrites. I really appreciate the advice and the upbeat nature of your comment too. It has cheered me up no end!
      I think you’re right that I need to write down the main events to see how the whole thing flows now. I started writing in April this year and haven’t really done any major editing to speak of. I know this is the next main task and I’m dreading that a bit as well 🙁 But first, I need to finish the story! I think I will print out the manuscript as you suggest and take that on holiday, instead of the laptop, to help me remember the main events (!) and to see if that will help me sort out a suitable ending. I am pretty sure there are some ‘major’ events that could go without any impact on the overall story.
      I will keep going because I couldn’t bear not to now after all this hard work and of course, will keep posting about my trials and tribulations. Thanks again.

  2. I can empathise with this post so much! I remember thinking ‘Editing? But I’ve just WRITTEN the story!’ I took a break from it for a few weeks/months and when I came back to it, it didn’t seem like such a chore because it felt fresher, if that makes sense?
    I think what helped me a lot was that I handwrote my first draft, so I was able to do quite a lot of editing when I typed it up, or jot down notes on what I wanted to rewrite. Then I wrote out bigger sections by hand, retyped (and re-edited) and then sat down and read the whole thing in one sitting.
    Good luck! My definition of editing was ‘Spend all day writing. Change word count by thirty words’.

    • Thanks for this, Lucy. I did feel completely daunted by the prospect of editing, mainly because I know I need to do it in order to finish the story but I have at least made a start and that feels good! Have you finished your novel now?

      • Yep, finished FINALLY in May! About halfway through a second one now… I bought myself a fountain pen and some funky coloured ink so even if what I’m writing is terrible, at least it looks nice!

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