It’s always a strange feeling. I go from a completed, revised, edited, polished novel that I’ve grown so close to I’ve started imagining the characters as friends and family, to a bunch of strangers in a blank wilderness, all unsure as to what they’re supposed to be doing.
It’s like starting to rehearse a brand new play, the day after you finished a ten year run in the West End with your box office busting success.
I like to get stuck in to the next book as soon as I can, mostly to avoid loss of momentum. This time, I took a few days off after the edits-that-nearly-ate-my-brain to relax and re-energize, but now I’m back at the keyboard, pounding out my allotted words per day.
Normally, this is an exciting time. I enjoy that first flush of a new story, especially one that I’ve been dreaming about, planning and waiting for, all the time I was finishing up the last book. I’ve spent months telling myself, “as soon as I’ve got this book out the door, I can get really stuck into that sexy, exciting, wild new story in my head. It’s going to be soooo much better!”
Of course, that only ever lasts a day or so before I realise that this book is just as hard as the last one, and has the added disadvantage of me not knowing it inside out – its characters, its plot, its theme, they’re all just scrawls on a whiteboard right now.
This time, I have another disadvantage. This book, The Same Mistake, is a book I’ve started before.
You’d think that would be an advantage. I mean, I’ve got a seven thousand word head start. But those words were written five months ago, before I got sucked into some intensive rounds of revisions on the other book. My writing, my vision of TSM, has changed. And my memory, never my strongest point, has forgotten or amended all my original ideas. I keep coming across notes I wrote to myself about the book, back in November, and thinking, “What? Why was I going to do that?”
Of course, this always happens. Ideas always percolate for a while before I have time to write them, and even if they didn’t, I doubt that the finished book would resemble the original idea anyway. The very act of writing down the story, changes it. I learn something new about my characters, my plot, and myself, with every book I write. And that shows, in the way a small nugget of an idea becomes a fully fleshed out story, with real people, real places, and real stakes. That’s what makes writing so much fun.
So, what about you? What do you love – or hate – about first drafts?