Lessons Learned from the First Draft

So yesterday, I hit the end of the first draft for my contribution to the Veil Knights project. Along the way, I learned some new things and have other matters to consider before I tackle a second draft.

When I began drafting the novel, it was late summer/early fall and I was working strictly from notes and guidelines the collective had been sharing on a wiki. I was still getting a feel for my characters and the world we were creating. It was all feeling tentative and the writing was being interrupted largely by my graduate course.

By the time I was free to return to the manuscript, we suddenly were live with two books, now three, available. What changed for me was that I now had three manuscripts to use as a reference, including the all-important opening chapter to our event. More than that, the reviews were in and almost without exception they were strongly positive. We were moving more units per day, per week, than any of us expected which was a thrill.

Co-author, and good friend, Steven Savile.

But for me, it already raised high stakes. I’ve talked before how everyone on the team, with the exception of Steven Savile, was new to me. Their track records, reviews, and place in the urban fantasy firmament was more than bit daunting to me, just dipping my toe into these dirty waters. Couple that with the strong launch, I felt pressure I had never previously felt.

What’s interesting is that I’ve collaborated tons of times before including being part of several Star Trek novel series. The difference then was that I intimately knew the universe and my coauthors were by and large personal friends. Together, that gave me the net with which to work.

Here, I am feeling a tad different. So, I keep saying I need to raise my game and think I am on my way. I had a detailed outline, was constantly checking stuff with the others, and the words were flowing. As the pages grew in number, I also got to know my characters better and by the two-thirds mark already had a good sense of what I needed to redo in earlier chapters. Also, the reviews all seemed to like the pacing and action meaning I would have to go back in and adjust both, probably adding one more action sequence.

I also hit a spot I had forgotten about where the outline says, “[character] has worked out a plan (to come once I figure it out)”. That stalled me for at least half a day as I struggled to write myself out of the corner I inadvertently put myself in.  It felt a little meandering but then I realized I was now writing the climax and resolution a little earlier than expected. As the Christmas lights lit up the neighborhood yesterday, I hit 44, 800 words and the draft was done. That gives me about 5000 or more words to play with to improve the second draft.

Work begins anew later this week. I’ll use a 4000 word short story I owe someone as a palette cleanser and then reread things afresh.

As writing experiences go, this was somewhat familiar but largely new and different and I find that somewhat exciting. Now, if I can only figure out a name for the novel….

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