Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Rough Draft of the Maine Novel


After seven months of writing, I have completed the first draft of a new young adult novel! It's a rough draft riddled with inconsistencies and plot holes, but the main story, setting and characters are there. I have chatted and written notes to these people at all hours of the day and night. My family has to remind me that my characters aren't real. You know that feeling when you're engrossed in reading a book? It's even more intense if you are writing that book. I kept writing because it was the only way I'd know what would happen.

First drafts are thrilling but also challenging. Although I know the initial set-up and the ending before I start writing, the narrative can go in so many directions in between. The characters are defined existentially through their actions, but those choices are made as I work through the plot. Initially my focus is on story and on character developed and not on writing craft. My first draft looks so coarse compared to a final polished manuscript. It makes me cringe with embarrassment. I much prefer revision to drafting, but it's all part of a process that can span more than a year. There will be months of revision and beta testing on teen readers before I share the manuscript with my agent.


Central Park in April a couple of years ago.
The timing couldn't be better for fleshing out a novel set in the spring of senior year. For hometown details, I'll be revisiting Monhegan Island and harbor towns that inspired my fictional coastal community. Since my protagonist has been accepted to Columbia College, my first field trip is to New York City, where I grew up. The last time I was on campus was back in high school so I've signed up for a prospective student tour tomorrow. I'll be the only parent accompanied by a virtual daughter!

I'm starting my field work in New York because Maine is still a fraying patchwork of snow and ice. This has been an unusually long winter and a protracted mud season. I'm craving flowers, warmth and any color beyond frosty white and muddy brown. I'm staying with my parents, seeing friends and celebrating Passover with my family. There will be time for museums and shops. I need a short break.

Happy spring!

21 comments:

tina said...

Congrats! I know it will be a super good novel with all of your attention to detail.

Gloria Baker said...

Congrats Sarah Im sure your novel will be really interesting because I love how you write and your reviews I love read!
XO

Anmiryam said...

Congratulations on finishing a first draft. Writing fiction is some of the most arduous intellectual work I've ever attempted. Have fun with the field trips. If you make it up to Islesboro for research let me know!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Sarah,

This sounds to be the perfect moment to take a break from the fledgling novel in order to investigate the 'meat' which will flesh out the 'bones' of the finished book.

How fascinating it is to read of your writing process. It must be something of a source of fascination to you as the various characters and plot lines unfold and weave about as the novel progresses. A beginning and an end but so many very different ways of getting there.

Easter is such a joyous time and it will be lovely to spend it with friends and family. Enjoy!

teflon said...

I love how you talk about your writing. I feel like I'm in a beautiful craft shop. I'm not a professional writer, but I find the process of writing very liberating. Hard work, but liberating. Writing fiction, as another level altogether. I struggle with self expression. To form characters, understand them and express them through words, is a truly remarkable process.

Charlotte Agell said...

Way to go, Sarah!!

Barrie said...

Congratulations! Finishing that first draft is a huge accomplishment. I hope you enjoy your college tour with your virtual daughter. Too funny! I'm spending this weekend visiting two colleges with real-life senior :)

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

That is a great achievement and you have clearly earned yourself some spring time and some time off. Interesting to learn about how you write. I have never written fiction and imagine it must be quite a different process from personal or factual writing.

Amanda said...

Congratulations on your first draft! I am similar in that I like to flesh out story and character on the first round and focus more on the writing craft in the revisions. Often re-reading first efforts can make one feel like cringing, but this is when I recall Anne Lamott's advice about 'shitty first drafts' and realize it's all part of the process.

I just returned from NYC last night after visiting my daughter, and admired the just emerging daffodils and forsythia in Central Park. Some day it would be fun to meet up in NY!

Margie said...

Good job, Sarah
Smiles

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Well Done You!!
xoxo

Donna said...

Congratulations on completing the first draft! It doesn't sound like an easy process. How fun to go back to New York for research for the book and for family. I'll be in New York next week too, for the first time in nine years because my sister is getting married in Central Park!

troutbirder said...

How wonderful that your on your way. Good luck thru the whole process. I'm sure this will be worth all the effort. Late in life I've been reading Jane Austin for the first time. I've learned a lot about writing dialogue there...:)

Rose said...

Congrats on finishing the rough draft! You certainly deserve a break--enjoy your time in New York. I'm still chuckling over your tour with your "virtual daughter":)

A Cuban In London said...

I'm thrilled for you. I really wish you the best of luck with this new enterprise. Happy spring to you and your family, too!

Greetings from London.

Petra said...

Happy spring to you, Sarah, as well! Hopefully the flowers will follow soon in your surroundings.

It must be quite a milestone in the writing to have a draft finished, congratulations on arriving at that point. Adding details and description of places will surely be demanding but also fun, I wish you to enjoy the process. :)

Cat said...

Fantastic! So happy for you. Your time in New York sounds lovely, especially after such a long winter. Enjoy yourself!

Booksnyc said...

congratulations! The Columbia campus is just beautiful - it always strikes me as an oasis of calm in the midst of all the hustle of the city. Enjoy your visit!

cynthia newberry martin said...

So exciting! Congratulations, Sarah. I'm fascinated by process, and it was such fun to read about yours.

Sarah Laurence said...

All, it was so nice to come home to all your supportive comments - thank you! It may be a few days before I have time to visit. Crazy week!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'm so excited to hear you've finished the first draft and have done such great research. I love that you attended the student tour with your virtual daughter. :D