I finished the first draft of my novel yesterday. It ultimately clocked in at 59,722 words.
My feelings right now are still pretty mixed. While the first draft is done, the novel itself isn’t actually done. So that weight is still there.
On the one hand, like I’ve said, I’m proud of having done this thing. Actually drafting a story like this from beginning to end was something that I had convinced myself was impossible for me to do. I believed that for a long time.
On the other hand, what I have now is a garbage pile of words that I kind of want to set on fire. I’m told this is a normal headspace to be in. I kind of never want to see this project again. Although I’ve told this story from start to finish, it’s missing a lot of things. I know that the first pass revision is going to involve extensively rewriting the whole thing, and it’ll basically feel like writing an entirely new story. Maybe. I mean, I guess I don’t know that, but that’s what it feels like from this myopic emotional distance.
Here’s some of the stuff I do know:
- I switched viewpoints halfway through the project (like from first person immediate to third person limited), and I’m still not totally sure that was the right move
- I added another POV about two-thirds of the way through because my main POV character was becoming a little flat and I was becoming bored and I just needed to get through the day
- I completely changed the world-building at least twice (but possibly more than that and I’ve blocked out the other instances)
- I’ve left multiple notes to myself that look like this: [OKAY THIS THING IS NOW LIKE THIS SO GO BACK AND CHANGE IT TO BE CONSISTENT]
- I am bad at scene transitions and bad at action sequences (for now)
My work is cut out for me. On this project that I’m not totally convinced should ever see the light of day.
So yeah. Conflicted. I feel hollow, but also buoyant.
NaNoWriMo was a good challenge for me in general. Historically, I’ve been terrible at keeping promises to myself. I hate disappointing other people, but at some point over the years, I became inured to disappointing myself. Actually deciding to finish, promising myself that I would, and following through on that promise was important to me. I needed to show myself that this was a possible thing, and that it was not out of reach for me. And moreover, that it was something I could do consistently.
Additionally, there was a bit of self-sabotaging perfectionism that I needed to let go of, and NaNoWriMo certainly helped me do that. There are things that I’ve never attempted because I’ve been afraid that I’m not going to be perfect immediately. On the first try. At things I’ve never done before. It goes back to the twisted jerkbrain idea that it’s worse to do something and “fail” at it rather than do it at all. It’s a terrible, useless mindset, and I’ve been fighting it for what seems like forever now.
But I did NaNoWriMo. And what I produced is far, far, far from perfect. But hey, the world didn’t end. People aren’t pointing and laughing at me in the street. I’m still here. My life didn’t fall apart – it’s actually better than it’s ever been.
So I’m trying to hold onto that feeling, and I’m trying to celebrate a little. I’m going to step away from the project for a bit and let go of the running list of jerkbrain stuff. I know it’ll be there waiting for me when I inevitably open up the files again. In the meantime, there are other smaller projects I want to play with.
But holy shit, I wrote the first draft of a novel.