Base of the Mountain: Writing the First Draft

Alas! I’ve made it the base of the mountain after traveling through a series of simple steps for planning a novel. (See Trying This Planning $#it 📒)

I’m referring to Step 9: Writing Your Novel as the base of the mountain because there are so many inputs, processes and layers involved in writing a novel. It’s like climbing a mountain where you have to start at the bottom and slowly make your way to the top. It requires pacing yourself; a lot of patience, persitence and resilience. As I’m writing this now I’m beginning to think it’s more like building a pyramid.

Yes, building a pyramid seems like a more accurate metaphor. This is because you need to draw a plan for the structure. Decide where it’s going to be located, it’s design, size and dimensions. Determine what type of stone and mortar composition / consistency  you want to use – whether your mud is going to be 80% clay and 20 % sand, or some other clay to sand ratio. You need to figure out how to lay your foundation for the massive structure and a whole bunch of other bloody stuff for your project, which in this case is a novel.

Going back to Step 9, the guide made it specifcally clear that this stage is about writing the First Draft, and not a completed, ready-to-be-published novel. I won’t get into a lot of details about what the ‘First Draft’ entails, but from what I understand is that at this stage I’m supposed to be developing the storyline; the plots and subplots, etcetera, without focusing on minor details such as perfecting punctuation. Once done, this draft – and perhaps the second draft – is what you’ll use to streamline events, feel out your characters [1], identify plot holes [2], strengthen plotlines and all that great stuff.  It might be different for everyone, but essentially it’s taking the first step (at the base of the mountain) and casting your foundation for the actual book.

Just sit, relax, and write your first draft. This step sounds nice, right? Well, not for me. I’ve started writing my first draft and one page in these little imps are already crawling out of their holes. What are these creatures, you’re wondering? They’re those negative thoughts* that can limit and inhibit your productivity. These little imps may appear in a variety of forms, such as:

  1. The desire to procrastinate
  2. Overthinking,
  3. Fear, the trickiest and worst of them all

Why did I describe ‘fear’ as the trickiest and worst of them all? It’s because fear can be manifested in many different forms, and in some cases it can trigger anxiety. Those manifestations I’m talking about are fears of having: too many grammatical errors, weird dialogue, an unusual plot, a generic plot, too many clichés, unrelatable characters, outright rejection and the list goes on. I am certain that there are a lot of aspiring and full-fledged writers out there who have faced, and still are facing these challenges within themselves.

So how should one deal with a struggle like this? Buy a large tub of ice cream and eat it! Perhaps, but I guess it would probably be better to take short breaks from your work to clear your mind and then return with a fresh pair of eyes. Another strategy I like is trying to improve upon that area which is bothering you the most. For example, a fear of having too many grammatical errors can be lessened by joining a writing class or signing up for an English grammar course. It doesn’t matter if the class is at a physical school or an online programme, what matters is that you’re improving a skillset; something that we have control over. Fears on the other hand are difficult to control and harder to eliminate altogether. They are inevitable; however, they can be managed by placing focus on the controllable root-cause of the fear.

Me, I’m going for that tub of ice cream.

*Thinking Those Thoughts


 

[1] Different writers have different approaches to character development. I know some who say that their characters evolve as they write. It’s as if they come alive and choose to become whatever they want to in the end.

[2] This may or may not happen after re-reading your first draft. A character’s parent might have died in a car crash in the first chapter and then by the sixth chapter they died in a plane crash.

 

 

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