Monday, July 20, 2009

Step One in the Writing of a Novel

Two days ago I completed the first draft of a novel I made notes and an outline for ten years ago and have worked on, sporadically and for the last year exclusively, ever since.

It's a kind of love story I'm calling Waiting for the Revolution that starts in Mexico at the end of the 1960s but is mainly played out in a back-to-the-land hippie commune in British Columbia.

I started it in 1998, shortly after completing the first draft of my memoir, Leaving the Farm, only to abandon it after thirty pages to concentrate on subsequent drafts of the memoir. Resumed work on the novel in December 2000 and completed six chapters of it before again abandoning it. Picked it up again in August 2005, after sending out the thirteenth draft of Leaving to Oolichan Books, and worked on it until my wife and I left for Mexico in January 2006. Laid it aside at the end of that month to work on yet another draft, the fourteenth and final one, of the memoir, which was accepted by Oolichan in June 2006.

I gave the rest of that year to the editing process. Returned to Mexico in January 2007 and made little progress on the novel, chiefly working at revising what I'd already written while waiting, with some eagerness, for the publication of my memoir, which happened right after we got home from Mexico at the end of March 2007.

The rest of that year was given to the book launch, to subsequent readings, to my little "tour" in Minnesota, and other promotions of the book.

Got back to the novel the winter of 2007-08 in Mexico, again mostly revising what I'd written before, but from July of 2008 until this past Saturday -- exactly a year -- I wrote nearly every day on the book to complete this first draft.

Length: 287 printout pages. Count: 74,390 words. I see a final draft of no more than 75,000 words.

So now I'll let this draft sit for awhile and work on something else. Then try to read "objectively" what I've written before going at the second draft wth the hope of finishing it by the end of this year or, at the outside, by the end of another winter in Mexico.

I won't approach any publishers until I've completed a second draft, and maybe not then if what I've written still seems too rough or unrealized.

Like any other writer with a first draft, established or otherwise, I'll have my work cut out for me. First, I'll have to see what I've got so far, if anything, to work with. Then there'll be stuff to cut, stuff to expand upon, characters to flesh out, characters, perhaps, to drop or to introduce. A first draft is just a lump, after all, waiting to be hewn into some form; a negative not yet developed; a slapped-together frame one might have to tear apart and start over; at best a hazy picture in need of focusing.

A confusion right now, a mess. Oh yeah, I've got some work ahead of me. The first draft is only the first step, a crude suggestion, after all, of what might -- that is, might -- become a finished thing.

Have I mentioned my excitement?