Drafts, NaNo, Deadlines and Breaks

I’ve recently returned to editing Hold Back the Night after working through the comments made by my super helpful beta readers. I’m tying up loose subplots and energising the fizzly characters. I’m putting meat on the skeletal draft version and making the words crisper. I had paragraphs where every sentence started with ‘She’ (sorry, beta-readers!) – this is very satisfying to change.

skulls skeletons000

It’s exciting, especially as I’d like to have it finished by the end of the year, ready to start submitting to agents in January.

But the premise makes the endless rereading even harder than it normally would be. A woman recovering (a bit) from sexual assault is distressing to read, even when I wrote it. It’s worse when I go from working on it – trying to find new ways to express shame and terror and revulsion – to reading about Harvey Weinstein, to reading the pages of #metoo stories. It’s become urgent – I want this story out there, but my standards remain stubbornly high. I don’t want to leave the writing floppy just because the marketability is suddenly soaring. The story deserves better than that, as do those wonderful (infuriating) characters.

I’ve realised that not only do I have to give it time to mature fully, I have to give myself breaks from it. I can’t be an emotional mess in the rest of my life just because I’m spending hours in the company of damaged characters. I’ve worked on all the chapters, I’m happy with the story, the words are getting stronger. I need to break my writing life up a bit.

Low and behold, this ‘break’ coincides with November. And we all know what that means…NaNoWriMo! Or, for the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month. 400,000+ people around the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during November. It’s mad and fun and the communities that spring up around it are the best bit.

I wasn’t going to do NaNo. I don’t need any encouragement to write daily, nor to write quantity over quality (hello every first draft ever). But perhaps this is the break I need. I have a first draft I’m saving to work on during a Writers’ HQ online editing course, and I have half of another draft. But you can never have too many first drafts to bash into shape, particularly when you work full-time and can’t luxuriate into ideas organically but need to vomit them out wherever possible to then chisel away in bite-sized pieces.

My list of novel ideas contains nothing that could be called ‘fun’, but maybe I’ll think of something. I have four days, after all, that’s 64 waking hours and 32 hours of dreaming. Loads of time.