Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

A Very Rough Draft

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

The manuscript is inconsistent, it’s full of notes, it’s in desperate need of research, and a couple of sections are just blocked out (“They struggle for the gun” “Intimate, poignant sex scene here”), but all the essentials are in place — beginning, middle, end — so I am officially declaring this to be a FIRST DRAFT.

While I like to call this novel a “near-future thriller,” it is science fiction, making it the first SF novel I’ve written since Memory — though I hasten to add it’s nothing at all like Memory.

It’s easily the roughest first draft I’ve ever done. In the old days, I would polish every paragraph, every chapter, before going on to the next. With the Puzzle Lands books I wrote much faster, but still stopped to polish and revise along the way. With this book, while I did a little backfill and a bit of revision, it was mostly a straight shot from beginning to end — partly out of fear that if I stopped and thought about it too much I would let the internal-critic take over, become discouraged, and quit. I tried to make “trust the process” my mantra, though whether it worked or not, only time will tell.

For those writers out there who might be interested in the timeline, I started brainstorming the story on June 5. Actual writing commenced on June 9, with a session that produced 1300 words. I worked on it fairly consistently over the summer, aiming for a thousand words a day. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I did nothing, sometimes I did more. At any rate, by September 2 I’d accumulated 69,000 words…which means that over the next 13 days I added 18,000 words for a first draft total of 87,000. For a lot of writers, this is no big deal. For me — I am a slow writer — this is an astonishing pace, especially given that on some of those thirteen days nothing was written because I didn’t have a clear idea of what was going to happen next. (Do other writers always know what happens next? So many of them seem to.) After revisions, I’m hoping the final word count will be no more than 95,000.

Here’s an ironic “fun fact”: this novel was inspired by a character who came to life in a short story I wrote last spring. I sent that story off to a major market at the end of May, and since then I’ve written the entire first draft and have still not gotten a decision on the story. Of course, now that I’ve said this in public, I’m sure the rejection will turn up on Monday. C’est la vie. ***

And here’s an embarrassing “fun fact”: this is the second first draft I’ve finished this year. The other is a fantasy novel unrelated to anything else I’ve done. The rule is supposed to be “finish one project before starting another,” but…yeah. I’ll get back to the fantasy novel real-soon-now — like after I get a solid second draft of the SF novel, because it’s the one that has a firm grip on my enthusiasm, and in my opinion, enthusiasm is a very good thing.

*** Update: I was wrong. In fact, Monday brought great news. This story has sold. More on it later.

Eighty Days. . .

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

…and I’m calling this a completed draft.

Specifically, a completed first draft of Hepen the Watcher, the sequel to The Dread Hammer, which I started writing on May 1st.

Right now the draft is an untidy, 74,000-word mess, but it’s a story, with a beginning, a tumultuous middle, and a pretty decent end. There’s a lot to do in round 2, but not tonight.