Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nobody’s House – Rough Draft is Done


Today I finished the rough draft of Nobody’s House. Approximately 110,000 words, split across thirty-five more manageably-sized documents. I split them up in March when the single document got too big to navigate during construction. Tonight I get to paste them all together into their Voltron-like literary glory.


I’m celebrating. Tomorrow I’m going to sleep in, possibly beyond 9. If I told my childhood self that’s how we’d celebrate, he’d probably throw Transformers at me. I’ll throw in some pizza and funny movies to appease his memory.

The last chapter came about by accident. Following the climax, I had a good idea for the first paragraph of the following scene. I popped open a new document and set it up. That paragraph became three, fleshing out the introduction. Then I set up the major actions, and cleaned the plot skeleton for the chapter. A few things were easily described. I kept adding “just one more thing” until I realized I was writing the last sentence of the book. Just like that. If only the whole draft could have been so easy.

I hesitate to say “the book is done.” It’d be swell to pronounce it, but it isn’t. It’s not even a first draft.

The opening chapter needs to be split in half, and the conflict therein needs a complete rewrite. Hees is not the extortionist anymore. The motivations and dialogue in the climax also need rerouting. And there are hundreds of smaller things I knew needing fixing as I was writing the flawed copy. One of the better senses I’ve developed since college is what problems can be fixed immediately, and what can be marked and edited later. When fact-checking is necessary, or dialogue is spotty, or an invention requires tweaking in an earlier chapter, I leave myself commands in the text rather than interrupting the flow of the current work. Likewise, when I simply can’t get the feel for a scene, I’ll make a bullet list of the events that need to happen, then jump the gap and keep on working. This is how I completed the draft at all.

I have a physical today. Got to see how the syndrome is coming along. Friends are visiting later in the week. There are ample excuses to not work on this for a little while. It’s a necessary breather, especially since I’m feeling the middle stages of writer's exhaustion again.

After my visitors leave, I’ll follow the notes and fill the gaps. Streamlining naming conventions, seeding plot points, weeding out crutch words. I’ll smooth it into a proper first draft, then shelve it for a little longer, because I firmly believe in distancing oneself between drafts, and the second draft will be ruthless. I'll read it with fresh eyes, not the enamored dad-vision I have for my baby right now, and tinker accordingly.

I’ll fill that next inter-draft break with short stories. I’ve had to suppress five ideas in the last two weeks; now some of them will get their chance. “Great White Hunter” will be a little zombie comedy, while “Architect of Epics” might spring into a novella.

That’s the plan. Maybe family will have crises or the earth will explode. For now, I only know I’m sleeping in tomorrow. Thank you all for your interest and support. I will do everything I can to make this worth reading.

18 comments:

  1. Congrats! A HUGE accomplishment, you should sleep in and eat pizza (and ice cream!). If you get to the end AND have a middle, it is a 1st draft. So enjoy the accomplishment, let your baby marinae, then return with vigor. Peace...

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  2. Congratulations, John! This is fantastic news!! Enjoy that celebration, every darn bit of it! Woo HOO!

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  3. Congratulations, John - this is an excellent milestone!

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  4. Congratulations, John! Enjoy your celebration and relax for a bit.

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  5. Whoo hoo! *does a happy dance* Congrats :) You definitely deserve a nice long break, and ice cream, and pizza, and movies. Enjoy it.

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  6. Woohoo!!! toots horn, waves streamers

    Seriously, I know that feeling. I was plotzing along with FAR Future, filling in some gaps, and thought "OK, what else? … What? I'm done?"

    I agree with Linda, it's a first draft. It might have gaps and structural issues, but that's what a first draft is after all.

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  7. So awesome, John! Big Congrats to you. You've got your plan in place, now take a breather, a *big* breather. Do tale care of yourself. Hopefully your physical today will remind u of the need to do that.

    Ps are you sure u want to merge all the docs at this point? It seems to me that keeping them separate at this point might make it easier to tackle.

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  8. Congrats, John! It's an awesome milestone!

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  9. Excellent, John. As exhausted as you feel, there must be that little kid with the transformer doin' the jig. That first draft, which I'd call 110,000 words a third draft, is such a big achievement in writing. Cheers!

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  10. Thank you all for the warm reception. I strongly feel like this will be the best thing I've ever written when it's done. It's been royally exhausting, but worth it.

    Linda and Mr. FAR raise a valid point. What's a rough draft and what's a first? To me, the first draft is the first relatively free of typos, bold notes and remaining outlines. It might be shoddy, but it's entirely readable. My current draft is a literary construction site. But if you view having a middle as qualifying for a first draft, then a first this is. I'm creating a new folder and files for the next (in my head, the first proper) draft all the same.

    You also make a good point, PJ, about the smaller files being more manageable than one monolithic document. I'll keep them separate while I'm editing, particularly for the convenience of applying chapter-specific notes. However, I want to paste together the rough draft just to see the whole thing together. It's more celebration than function, if you don't mind me being so irrational.

    Thanks to every one of you for the congratulations. I can't wait for the pizza part of this celebration.

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  11. Deep into my own works, I fully appreciate the joy of finally writing THE END, regardless of what draft it's on. You should congratulate yourself. This was the hardest part. The next steps will be all downhill. Take it easy and one scene at a time when you do. Proud of you John. Major achievement here.

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  12. Big Congrats, John! It feels so awesome to type that final line. Even though there's still a lot of work left to do, then betas, then more work. It feels damn good to type "The End."

    I think this is a first draft. I know what you mean about one doc getting unmanageable, but putting it together at the end sucks too. That's the only thing that makes me think about getting writing software. You can write in scenes or chapters and then it will compile it for you in the end.

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  13. It makes me feel better to know that, regardless of what I may struggle with, people like you are out there living the life of a "real writer" and occupying the fantastical world of their stories so fully. Enjoy your repreive of pizza and sleeping past nine. Love!

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  14. Hey you,
    I was smiling and amused and feeling all that excitement while reading through your post. I'm not sure I understood everything you wrote about the conflict therein the first chapter needing to be split in half and such, but I know what it feels like to have the mind wheels spinning and rearranging things here to there. I really enjoyed what you wrote about the ending. Both of my novels have been that way. Towards the climax I had an idea of where I wanted to bring it, but both times, the character brought it to where they wanted it. Devil's Eye genuinely shocked me. And Xscents in its way did too (with the most horrible and horrifying ending I've ever written- well, I didn't write it. The story did.) Anyway, so happy and proud of you! Hope you were able to sleep in and enjoy your time with friends. Hopefully no family crisis. And so far the world hasn't exploded or imploded. ALthough, I did read an article recently about worms from hell... maybe want to keep an eye on that. Congrats, John!

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