After three and a half years of writing, I have finally finished the first draft of my novel The Fool. If you’re keen to get updates on this, please sign up to my mailing list in the right sidebar.
To call it a first draft feels misleading, because I had breaks between writing periods and every time I started writing again I had to reread over what I’d already written, during which I edited. This means that some of the chapters have been edited over and over already, while some have been barely proofread.
I’m itching to get into editing, but I have to rest it a little bit before I look at it again. I’ve had a couple of alpha readers who have given me a little feedback, and even making a list of what to focus on made my eyes glaze over. The last month of writing was intense.
It was one of those alpha readers who got me over the finish line. I’ve written novel-length fanfiction before and so knew I could theoretically do it, but it’s hard without the rush of dopamine that comes from posting chapters as they’re finished. One of my friends, Phoenix, offered to read a chapter a day so that I could motivate myself to finish. And it worked! I managed to only miss one day of “posting” and finished the draft on the 30th of December 2023.
Reader, I can’t tell you the high that came with finishing it. I literally danced around the house, greatly alarming the animals. I still haven’t stopped smiling.
Of course, now I’m faced with the intimidating task of publishing it. I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route, because I’ve heard some horror stories from authors who have done both traditional and self publishing and as I understand it, traditional publishers expect authors to do the social media thing anyway. I have the skills to do it myself and I like the idea of having control of every aspect of it.
I was tempted to take my time, maybe drag out my edits etc so that I ended up publishing a year from now, but as luck would have it I’m attending a book fair in March and I thought, okay, I’m not going to be done by then, but what if I sold preorders? The rest of the schedule has fallen into place around this idea.
For those curious, my timeline/process for The Fool went something like this:
- June 2020: Write the first chapter or so with the vague idea that I like castles and magic. At this point I believe it is a novella.
- Don’t look at it again for four months.
- October 2020: Take the first chapter to a critique group, where the only piece of feedback I remember getting was “I don’t think it’s fantasy, because there weren’t any bats in the castle”. Treasure this feedback for the rest of my days. I know I must put bats in the story.
- Inspired by this, and presumably other feedback, write a proper outline and more words. This outline covers about ⅔ of what will eventually be the final draft. At this point I get about 17,000 words before I lose steam.
- January 2021: Sit on it for another four months. Edit those 17,000 words and write an extra 5,000 or so.
- May/June 2021: I’m trying to work on this consistently but it’s hard! I’m up to 33,000 words now and I think I’ve cracked what I don’t like about the first chapter. Or have I? Regardless, I delete the first half of the first chapter and that does improve things. I do tend to take a run up with stories that the reader doesn’t need to see.
- August 2021: My outline now covers the whole book. More details are happening.
- January 2022: I want to be a novelist! I don’t like that my job is using all of my creative energy (and I don’t like my job in general). I haven’t written creatively for months and that needs to change. I’ve watched Whisper of the Heart and I’m asking myself, why can’t I do that? That’s my dream too! I decide to take the daily tracking and pretty graphing of NaNoWriMo with a modified goal where I start with just 250 words a day and increase slowly. I just want to work on it every day. I start the challenge with 44,464 words and finish the month on 60,000 exactly. It’s so hard. I know everything that happens but I can’t seem to wrap my head around executing it. By the end of the month, I know I’m burnt out, but I way overshot my goal and I’m proud of myself.
- April 2022: I quit my job, which was a long time coming, and become pretty inert for a while. I was a content writer, so I was writing for a living, and I couldn’t hack it. It’s difficult to describe the impact this had on my sense of self. Despite my new free time, I don’t do much on any projects for the rest of the year.
- Most of 2023: Every time I think about working on The Fool, I know that I will first have to read 60,000 words. I still can’t figure out how to stitch the chapters together. My major goal for 2023 is to finish my first draft, but I have a new job and other projects are calling to me.
- On the 28th November 2023, I have just over 64,000 words and a tight outline for the missing chapters, even though I don’t have my head wrapped around some important things. I think I can finish it with one last push of 20,000 words. What I need is accountability. An incredibly supportive and generous friend agrees for me to send them one chapter a day and to cheerlead me as they read it. I believe that I’ll be able to finish on 1st January if I stick to the schedule. It turns out that a couple of the placeholder chapters weren’t necessary and I finish on 30th December instead. I had no idea how much it would mean to me, but I’ve never been happier with an accomplishment in my life.