Yesterday morning, I typed those two lovely words I’ve been dreaming of for months: THE END. My first draft of the young adult novel based on my friend Lydia is complete. It is a rough draft, indeed, but it is a completed draft. And for that, I am happy.
I am happy, but I am not satisfied. Several people I’ve talked to in the last couple of days have asked the inevitable question: “So, what’s next?” Months of rewriting and revisions, that’s what’s next. My goal when I started typing the first page of this draft on July 8 (just four months ago!) was to get the basic story and dialog down without spending too much time over-thinking tiny details. Just let the story flow, just type, just see where things go.
Meaning: I have a bit of a mess on my hands now. I have 220 double-spaced pages…and no chapter divisions. How could I divide the story into chapters when I didn’t even know for sure where it was going or how fast? I have some very clunky dialog, but at least I have the framework of the conversations that are important to the story. I have minor characters who are very likely called one name in the first half and a different name in the second half. I have Chinese and Bulang words that I haven’t taken the time to translate or explain. I have underdeveloped antagonists and overdeveloped cultural descriptions.
But I know all those things—knew them as I went along. I decided it would be easier for me to go back and fix things once I had a completed draft than it would be to get bogged down in correcting or elaborating or cutting away, only to get frustrated because my word count was moving too slowly, and risk getting overwhelmed and never finishing. I have more than a little editorial tendency in me, and I’m excited at the thought of attacking this draft with an eye for sharpening what isn’t strong enough, getting rid of what doesn’t work, and generally repairing this huge mess. I made tons of notes to myself as I wrote, and I’ll start going through and rewriting very soon.
One thing I’m more than satisfied with is my ending. I’ve struggled with writing solid conclusions since I was in grade school, and all along this process I’ve worried about how to have an emotionally satisfying ending to this chapter in Lydia’s story, but leave things open to tell the next part in a second book. Just in the last couple of days, the ideas started flowing, and I absolutely love the ending I wrote. Now I don’t face these revisions with the dread that comes from knowing my ending needs a major overhaul. Fine tuning, yes. Major overhaul, no.
I hope to finish up drafts two, three, four, however many it takes, by next summer and begin sending out query letters to agents soon after that. In the meantime, I’m also working to build up a freelance writing business. Lots of learning and writing and submitting and waiting and trying again, and I’m loving pretty much every minute of it.