First Draft – what now?

I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve finished the first draft of my new novel.

Typing The End on a first draft is a truly marvellous moment. For me, it comes after much hair-tearing, wine, chocolate and the occasional sublime moment of inspiration. It is a time to celebrate and catch your breath. It’s a time to put the manuscript aside for a bit to get some distance. For the real work is about to begin. You have your painstakingly manufactured canvas. Now it’s time to paint.

It is often said that there is no great writing, only great rewriting. (Justice Brandeis) The legendary Peter Bishop, former creative director of Varuna, Australia’s national writer’s centre, once put it to me like this. The first draft is the writer’s draft. It’s essentially the writer telling himself the story. You need to revise it within an inch of  its life – cutting, adding, polishing and shaping, until you have a reader’s draft. Only then should you contemplate launching it into the world.

Let it be said though, adding layers of richness to this first draft is a gazillion times easier than bashing it out in the first place. This is the time to interrogate your narrative. Does it have emotional depth?  Do your protagonist and antagonist develop in a believable way? What about sensory description? Can your readers hear, smell, taste and feel what your characters do? Go through any notes you may have, for details that will enhance the credibility of your narrative.

There was a time before I was published that this was an open-ended process. I literally redrafted and redrafted until it was done. Deadlines have put paid to this luxury. I hone the story until the clock runs out, and then look forward to having another run through once editing comes around. Nevertheless, for me this is still the most enjoyable and satisfying part of the writing process. What do others think?

6 thoughts on “First Draft – what now?

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