After four months of writing, writing and then writing some more (sometimes staying up till 2 am to finish a chapter) I have finally completed the first draft of 'A Prophet Who Loved Her'. Roughly 87,000 words. So I am done, right? It's time to publish this bad boy, pat myself on the back and boast to anyone who cares that I wrote a novel? Yeah...not even close.
The first draft = completely unpublishable
Usually, novel writers fall into two categories: planner or panster. The former is where you plan a detailed outline of your book, going as far as to have every chapter, emotional beat and character arc planned out in advance before you begin writing the book. A panster starts writing and lets the story unfold naturally and unexpectedly.
Being a man who needs some structure in his life (but never too much, that'd be boring and I don't do boring), I am a planner. I had to be since I was a writing novel that was complex in its structure. So, I wrote an entire summary of my book, wrote detailed biographies of all the characters and their emotional arcs throughout the book and plotted out all the chapters.
But even though I mostly followed the plan I had outlined, I know that my first draft is completely unpublishable. No one but me and me alone will ever read it. I think of my first draft like it's my daughter that has just woken up. Her hair is messy, she stinks, and she's not making sense. Even though she's breathing and functioning as a toddler should, I am not going to send her out to the outside world until I've bathed her, tidied her hair and made sure she's wearing some decent clothes. I don't want to embarrass her and myself as a parent.
My first draft may look like a novel, but it's not one that I should publish unless I want to embarrass myself. 'A Prophet Who Loved Her' is a complicated book, with quite a few characters, exploring sensitive issues like religion and bisexuality and takes place in two completely different timelines, one of which I wasn't even alive yet! I have no doubt made some inaccuracies. Not only that, but I know my grammar is all over the place as well.
Completing the first draft of my novel is great because it now gives me something I can work with; something to sculpt into a great work of art.
As I read through the first draft, it's now about quality control and I will be asking myself important questions. Is the plot strong? Are my characters realistic and consistent? Are there any plot holes? What are the weakest parts of the book I could remove or make stronger?
I need to make sure I am answering these questions, and so when I begin editing the first draft, I am producing a stronger and tighter second draft. But even then, the second draft isn't the finished product...
No one said finishing a book was an easy task. But if you don't want to make a fool of yourself, you better not rush the process. That goes for most things in life.