The End of the Beginning

Blog 8

First drafts of novels are what I like to think of as the end of a beginning. For me, it’s the second major step in completing a novel. The first is an outlined Beat Sheet, which you can refer to here. They help the writer identify all the major plot points before starting to actually write. There are several types of beat sheets – for the novel I am currently working on, I used the Hero’s Journey.

For my Emerging Artist grant, the project I am working on is a novel called The Harvest. After finishing the beat sheet, I started on the first draft. First drafts are the hardest part for me. I’m naturally brief and usually have trouble getting my first novel drafts to 80,000 words (the generally accepted number for a marketable novel). I tend to skimp on the opening pages, just to get the bones of the novel on paper. With The Harvest, my process and challenges were the same. I struggled to get the first draft and stopped about 75% of the way through. With some help from my Emerging Artist Mentor, Sheree, I was able to push through the creative block and finish the first draft on Monday.

Now comes the fun part. While the first draft of a novel is never incredibly fun to me – I enjoy it, but it can also be quite stressful – the editing part is my absolute favorite. I spent the majority of my time on novels in the editing stage. I go back and review scenes. Is there sensory detail? Can I see, smell, and hear everything that’s happening? What’s the emotional root of the scene? Does something change by the end of it? What does it contribute to the overall plot?

A Maine Coon cat like Mädchen, the narrator’s cat in The Harvest.

It’s during editing that I’m able to fully realize the emotional plot of my stories. While my first drafts tend to be all heart, editing is where I can play with foreshadowing, repeated imagery, theme, and tone. I can refine long chapters that lack action and tighten up sentences for an extra punch. That’s what I’ll work on for the next couple of weeks. The piece needs to be expanded by about 15,000 words. I have some mythology that needs to be laid down, as well as some issues with consistency and continuity. I need to speak more on the theme and work on how it progresses.

The Harvest is a fun piece. It’s similar in tone to a Stephen King novel, all quiet Maine scenery and soft surprises in the night. It will take some work to finalize it and make all the pieces come together, but I’m at the part in this process that I enjoy the most, so I am looking forward to it.


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