First Draft Day

No day of writing is as satisfying to me as the day of completing the first draft of a story. I always feel like I’ve taken a load off my back. The whole time I’m writing the darn thing, I have a terrible sense of incompletion, that I haven’t yet said all the things I wanted to say, and maybe never will, but when that first draft is done, I feel that at least the basics are all there, finally set down and committed to paper.

Only later do I remember some of the things I meant to include but somehow forgot in the general sweep of things. This latest one, The Lemon Thief”s Ex-Wife’s Third Cousin, the first draft of which I just finished this evening, had a number of elements I wanted to explore at least a little bit. Part of it was my recent experience living amidst the constant upheaval which is Christchurch, New Zealand at this time in its history, and the sense of perpetual but slow-motion apocalypse pervading the populace there, the constant anxiety that is also business as usual. Then there was the vague concept of parallel lives, of the little choices we make every day that could, at any moment, set us on a different course in life altogether, and often do exactly that. There is also the influence of friends on our fates. Also the confusing notion of second versus third cousins (something I forgot to get into in the first draft altogether). I also wanted a narrator who could only tell what he saw for himself, so the story will be missing some crucial scenes because the narrator had no direct access to them. Also when the narrator is close to, but not really part of, the story itself. I wanted to expose a little of the commonplace, ordinary every day patriarchy that pervades our lives without even a notice (the names of places and streets, for example, are to a very large extent men’s names, or named after men). I wanted to hint at some things and see if anybody bites at the bait (knowing full well this almost never happens). 

In short, I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to touch on, and at the same time I thought I had enough of an interesting plot to hold a reader’s attention and still let me address most if not all of those ideas. Now the time is come to ‘let it bake’, something I’m never very good at. I want to continue thinking about the book for a while, see what I missed, or left out, or should remove, and so on. Read it few a couple more times. Maybe type it out all over again. I used to have to do this back in the days of pens and paper and typewriters and it usually resulted in improvements overall. Computers have made me more lazy about doing that.

For today, it’s enough to go through the Smashwords formatting procedures and run spell-checker and take care of basics like that, the technical basics. The next creative sweep through it all will come after I’ve let it sit and seen what rises.


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