The first draft of a novel is like life. The ups and downs. The oscillation between elation, depression and sheer boredom. How do any of us keep going, us authors. I think it’s a combination of will-power and of love for the written word, mixed in with a need for recognition in our lives. Let’s be honest. We all want to be read and get good reviews, we’re human, after all. However, there are many times when we feel like giving up and I often ask myself the question: ‘Does the world actually need another book?’ And, ‘does it need this book?’
The answer to the first question is that humans will always tell and listen to stories. It’s in our DNA. Stories are as old as humankind itself. As to the answer to the second question, that has to be left up to others. If my book is good enough and I have something interesting to say, perhaps, yes. That’s certainly what I strive for – to make what a write worthwhile – not only in terms of the quality of the writing, but in the characters I create and the world I create around them.
The trick of writing that first draft is to keep going even through the bad patches when boredom and lack of confidence seep in. It helps to connect with other writers, or to write in a café with others around, or to join a course as I just did, although that many not be affordable to everyone. It’s easy to get stale and so connecting with other authors, or even books you enjoy reading, can help. On the other hand reading a brilliant and well-written book can be a downer. ‘I can never write like that’, the critic on your shoulder squawks. ‘Never in a million years.’ Just remind yourself that YOU are writing your book. No-one else is. You may admire a particular author and his or her style and of course you can learn from this. But this author is not you. You have your own style, your own way of looking at the world. Stay with this.
It is scary showing your writing to others but it’s important to do so, although only to those whose judgement you really trust. Each person will have their own take on your work but if everyone says the same thing, then listen and take note. In my present working novel, almost everyone who read it questioned why I addressed the sister in the second person, rather than using her name. I stuck fast. For a while. But in the end I realised this wasn’t working. I’ve changed it. However, there are times when you must also stick to your guns. The topics I write about are serious ones – conflict, death and exile. I love reading witty books, funny books but I can’t write them. I don’t want to write them either. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must write this or that. You know why you want to write and what you want to write about.
The first draft is just the first draft. After that comes the editing process but that’s something else. Try not to get stuck at the beginning of your book. It’s easy to do. You want to perfect it so you go over and over and you never get further than the first 10,000 words. I’ve done it. I still do it. Perfect it at the editing stage. Now just go for it. Take the plunge and leap.