I've finished the first draft of my book, The Thickness of Water. I'm thankful for the lessons the experience taught me. I'd like to share them with you, along with my next steps. Click through to read the post.

What I Learned After Finishing the First Draft of My Book

Friends, it’s done. I’ve finished the first draft of my book, The Thickness of Water.

I don’t have enough words to express my joy and relief. After several writing slumps and plot changes, I finally got the story out of my head and onto the page. To give you a taste, it’s about a forever-18, 92-year-old Jamaican soucouyant (Ol’ Higue) who finds her 74-year-old human daughter, whom she had given up for adoption.

I’m proud of my flawed first draft. I’m equally proud of myself for starting this bold project and seeing it through to the end. Now that it exists and I can see its potential, I’m grateful that this story chose me to write it. It must really have faith in me. I’m also thankful for the lessons the experience taught me. I’d like to share them with you, along with my next steps. Maybe they might be just what someone who’s struggling with writing their first book needs to know.

What I Learned After Finishing the First Draft of My Book

I've finished the first draft of my book, The Thickness of Water. I'm thankful for the lessons the experience taught me. I'd like to share them with you, along with my next steps. Click through to read the post.

Photo Credit: Rochelle Marshall

The First Draft Will Be Shitty

Ernest Hemingway said it first.

In your head, your story will look as magical as Alice’s Wonderland. When you see that what you’ve written is a far cry from the image in your head, your elation will plummet and crash like Humpty Dumpty. And that’s okay because you haven’t yet found your story’s stride. I learned to switch off my inner editor and kick perfectionism to the curb. So focus on getting the story out of your head. There’ll be enough time for polishing it later.

A Writing Tribe is Key

Without my writing tribe, which includes my accountability partner, Mek, I would be lost. Her encouragement and sage advice made all the difference. When I started freaking out because my word count was lower than intended, she straightened my perspective by pointing out that I had finished my book, which was enough reason to celebrate. Then she tackled my concern, which, as it turns out, isn’t an issue.

Your writing tribe is your anchor. It will keep you from drifting into the shallows of self-doubt, insecurity, and groundless panic. All you need to start building your writing family is one person who believes in you and your work. Writing is a lonely task but you don’t have to go it alone. Start networking. Connect with the writing community on Twitter and Instagram. I started building my tribe through blogging and then via social media.

I Need to Write at My Own Pace

When I rush, I feel anxious. This experience showed me that I need to pace myself while I’m writing. The temptation to make haste was powerful, especially when I learned of other writers who had churned out several books in a single year. I felt as if I wasn’t keeping up. There’s that comparison trap again.

But our creative process is diverse. I can only write the way I do best. This has nothing to do with a target date that you’ve set. Deadlines are fine. However, this process has taught me that I’m a slow writer. For me, the creative journey is as vital as arriving at the destination. Otherwise, how else would I have learned to release my OCD tendencies to write scenes in a linear fashion? And to find such freedom in doing so. True, my brain howled at first, but then it relaxed after seeing how it all worked out.

The Most Important Thing is to Finish

It’s the only “rule” you need to follow.

The First Book is Practice

Writing a book is like a marathon. Look at the first book as practice, a warm-up for the others that will follow.

My writing life started with short stories, my first love. So I was clueless about the stamina I would need to write a novel. Friends, it wasn’t easy. When the writing got hard, I would procrastinate by doing other creative work, just to avoid the pain. Writing is unglamorous and that’s why you need to be in love with it if you see it as the thing you were born to do. Yet, as hard as the grind is, it’s worth it.

Now that I’ve written my first book, I still don’t know everything. I haven’t become an expert. One thing I do know is that I need more practice. But I have gained clarity about the process that I never had before. It’s worlds apart from writing a short story. It’s reading more than you write, honing the craft, screaming at the hundreds of Is and misspellings in one paragraph alone upon re-reading what you wrote at 1 a.m., grinning when the words are rushing like a river in spate, and knowing in your heart of hearts that yes, you are a writer.

***

What’s Next?

I’m taking Stephen King’s advice and letting the story marinate for a week or two. Then, I’ll start the first edits before writing the second draft. For my revision process, I’ll be using Mek’s writing review template, which she has made available as a free download.

 

I've finished the first draft of my book, The Thickness of Water. I'm thankful for the lessons the experience taught me. I'd like to share them with you, along with my next steps. Click through to read the post.

 

How did you feel after finishing the first draft of your first book?

Share your thoughts

6 Comments on "What I Learned After Finishing the First Draft of My Book"

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Leslie
Guest

Nadine! You’re my hero – Congratulations on this milestone! Bringing what seems magical and obvious in one’s mind to the page can be a daunting process and it’s hard sometimes to shut-down the mental garbage that always seems perched to discourage!
All I can say is that I am watching you and learning from your creativity, openness, vulnerability and perseverance. Thank you for being an inspiration.

Cara
Guest

Can’t say enough how proud and inspired I am! It’s one thing to dream about it and another to have it on paper and you’ve bridged that gap. Woohoo cannot wait to read!

Kevin
Guest

Sooo happy for you Nadine!!!!! I am particularly thrilled that you were able to finish. That is the accomplishment and doing that deserves celebration. Congrats!! I’ll be following your story to see how this unfolds. I am inspired.