When You Finish Your First Draft (And How Being Too Close To Your Own Work Can Be A Problem)

Today I finished the bulk of my first draft of my third book. What I mean by ‘the bulk’ is that I finished the meat of the story. I still have a couple of things to write, some loose ends to wrap up, and I’m still pondering whether I want to completely close the door on Frontier, or leave a few things open in case I want to revisit that world again. 

It’s a funny feeling. For such a long time I’ve been thinking about Shanna and her friends, and her adventures with her starcats on Frontier. I’ve been going to sleep most nights working on just how to make the ending I’ve had in mind for years, come about successfully. Have I succeeded? Well, when I finish a draft, I put it to bed for a week or two, and do something else, and then read it again. That’s when I usually realise whether it’s good or not, or whether I need to rework a few sections. Or even some major plot points.

I have quite a few other projects I’d like to write, so this is probably the time to really give them some serious thought, while I let the first draft percolate a bit. I often find that when I get back to it, it’s with a fresh set of eyes. Eyes that see what I actually wrote, rather than what I thought I wrote.

It’s a problem for writers – thinking we wrote something, reading what we thought we wrote because that’s what our brains do, and then realising that we didn’t write what we thought we wrote. That’s where fresh eyes, and eyes that don’t belong to us are so important. I’m fortunate enough to have a daughter who reads my stuff. She tells me if my writing sucks (“Mum, that bit really sucked!”), if I’ve changed the name of a character (“Mum, do you realise how many times you changed that name? And the sex of the character?”), or if the plot just didn’t make sense or didn’t move the story along. (“Mum, that bit was really boring.”) As you can tell, she’s not shy about telling me. 

And that’s what writers need. They need critical eyes, and people who aren’t afraid to tell them the truth about their writing. It’s really easy to have friends read your work and tell you how wonderful it is, but it’s not always useful, because we all need to grow thick skins, be willing to realise that our work is less than perfect, and learn from our mistakes.

Anyway, tonight I’m going to shut down Pages (I write on a MacBook Pro), pull out my eReader, and alternate between reading, watching Masterchef, and attempting to compose pithy tweets while I watch, and listening to the dogs and cats snore while the wind howls coldly around the outside of the house.

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