Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

Belated Celebrations: Goodbye, 3rd draft!! (And now 4th too!!) September 21, 2016

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:11 pm

A/N: I wrote this back in April, but was so busy with beta reader crits and getting the 4th draft done that I forgot I wrote this until now. Oops.

=>Finished the third draft today. Holy, holy f**k. It feels amazing to have reached this point. At so many times, over so many years, I truly doubted I could make it (okay, today I might have cried as I hit save. The YA-writer angst is in my blood, I suppose). But every time I went in a bookstore, I kept chiding myself: did I really think all those people could do something I couldn’t?

It feels really strange to be done. The thought of starting something new is…daunting. But intoxicating. That rush of inspiration. But now I know how long and twisting the road is…

Fine, fine. I’ve already started something else. Don’t judge.

And that makes it seem strange to look back on Nothing and Forever (though I’m thinking of changing the title to The Flip Side) in hindsight. I call it my 2014 NaNoWriMo project, though pure coincidence that I started it then and I never actually NaNoed. I finished the first draft in early 2015 then let it rest until Easter, when I broke my foot and had to skip EasterCon. My consolation prize: a long weekend to begin to make sense of my messy, messy first draft—and realising I had no idea how to apply my Clarion short story editing skills to novels. With short stories, it’s easy to keep the whole thing in my head even as I chop and change. I can keep a mental flipchart of what I had, what I want, what I cut, what disarray I’ve currently created. But novels are so freakin’ big…

So major heartfelt thanks (again) to all my Clarion instructors for sharing their wisdom, to all my writing friends who read snippets, listened to me blather on about my imaginary friends and how evil to them I planned to be. But in the end, just like writing the damn beast in the first place, editing is a forged-by-fire type deal. You gotta get down there knowing you *will* get burned.

So I backed off the second draft for a bit, thinking what story I really wanted to tell, what the arcs should be, etc, etc. Poking at it now and then. Then came summer 2015. My daughter spent 6 weeks with my parents, and I spent 6 weeks of 12–18 hour days with my novel. The closest I could get, I suppose, to applying my short-story/total-immersion method. The story came alive as I broke down scenes and acts, reconstituted them around the right emotional cores. I got the second draft done in those 6 weeks—but sprained my brain so much I couldn’t really look at it again until November. Which, at least, gave my first amazing beta time to tackle the beast.

During which time, of course, I had a major crisis of confidence about the new arcs etc. I went back to outlining, came up with a new structure, tore into the book, intent on imposing that vision. Got about halfway, found myself trudging through growing unease that although I was making things *different*, they weren’t necessarily *better*, and ultimately realised that nope, my original structure and arc were right. So then I had to revert-but-keep-those-few-nifty-plot-twists, plus finish edits to my original vision, which was now Draft 3. That took until April (A/N: When I originally wrote this). I remember I sold my house, finished the book, and was re-elected Chairperson of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio all in the same week—on top of full-time freelancing and being a single parent.

I gave it one more read through and a tinker, and shipped it out to betas. Went through it again and gave myself 8 pages of continuity notes. Nearly fainted at the Draft 3 wordcount: 123,786. Yikes. I knew it was still a kitchen-sink draft, but wanted beta-reader input as to where pacing really flagged to get a better idea of where I needed to cut.

So that’s how 3 drafts took 18 months. Way too slow, but I know I can get through edits faster now that I know the process. In fact, Draft 4 took only about a month or so, and yeah, I know I wasn’t making major changes, but then again, I got it down to around 109,000 so definitely some major surgery going on.

I can also already see in the new book how having gone through the editing process is letting me make better choices in the first draft. I understand the implications—the promises and payoffs—of my choices so much better now so—hopefully!!—I’ll get away with less time during edits spent wandering in circles, trying to figure out which segment should be my character arc.

And so it’s done, draft 4 done too as of last week. I swear, finishing a book turns me into Ned Flanders, because once again, I keep wanting to say, “it’s done diddly-un, done-diddly-un” over and over. Post-book-brain. Hell of a thing.

Perfect frame of mind for figuring out my query, right?

UPDATE: my 4th-draft beta sent me this as a teaser to let me know she’d finished reading. Trust a fellow writer to know how to hang a cliff…