I say “first book” not to be unbearably pretentious, but because I’m following the advice of folks like this guy, who suggest that you start writing your next, better book just as soon as you are done with your last book.
So, after a little much-deserved fist-pumping and balloon releasing and looking around for the confetti-filled pinata for me to whallop, I announced my minor achievement on Facebook and Twitter, then opened up a new file and wrote the first 300 words of my next, better book.
In about a week, I’ll open up the manuscript I just completed and start revising. In the meantime, I’m playing around with what happens when one of my favorite secondary characters from the first story gets his own turn in the spotlight.
It’s pretty fun to be just improvising plot and character again, after several months of rather doggedly pursuing the completion of this other storyline. The new story will eventually crystallize and become its own set, linear path, but for now it’s just play.
I don’t want to downplay the amount of relief and excitement I am feeling from having completed my first novel-length manuscript. Because it’s huge.
But it’s only a draft, and it is going to take some editing and revising to make it into what I might consider a “book.”
But, oh my stars and garters, it is so much easier to fix a bad page than to fix a blank page. And I have really been looking forward to having all 90,000 of my favorite words all together in one place, having finally squeezed every last one of them out of the toothpaste tube of my brain and into my computer, where I can properly bash them around together like little toy soldiers.
My friend Melissa — who has been rooting for me persistently to finish and listening compassionately to my draft chapters and thinking through my plot holes with me throughout the whole process — she says that what I am doing is taking my Barbie and Ken dolls and smacking them up against each other and making them say what I want them to say. Which is kind of true.
Except that I never had Barbie and Ken dolls. I had Snoopy dolls. But I did used to bash them up against each other and make them say silly things to each other, too.
But coming up with amusing little anecdotes and scenes and situations, I have found, is quite a different thing altogether from drawing a clear, bright thread of a story through an entire novel, and making it work, and making it something anybody actually cares about.
So that’s the next step. Grabbing that bright, red thread and making sure it’s properly woven through all the bits and pieces I’ve sewn together in that manuscript of mine.
But first, I get to spend a week just playing. With my secondary character who is now a hero in his own right, not just the first book’s hero’s younger brother. With a short story I’ve been fiddling with in the back of my mind. With the folks who love Downton Abbey, and the glory that is period drama actors on Twitter (Cousin Matthew, Mr. Bates, and Lord Grantham, to name a few).
In honor of this week of play, I have a few toys for you. I hope you enjoy them, and that you, too, experience the joy of finishing the massive, ambitious, incredible project you’ve got brewing on the stove.
Because this? This feels awesome.
Toys for you to play with:
My photo album of The Day I Finished My First Book-Length Manuscript: