On March 6th I started writing a new novel; the first really new story with new characters and a new setting for about three years. On June 30th I finished it. I pushed myself really hard but my deadlines were all self-imposed. I'd already shown an outline to Lovely Agent and we'd discussed it, but as I'm still unpublished, she has no desperate need for it. The need came entirely from myself.
So I got thinking. Why did I need to write it and why did I set myself a relatively short amount of time in which to finish the first draft? Why the hurry? Funnily enough, it was not a burning desire to be published, although that would be very nice, thank you. Nor was it because I thought that this was the novel the world had been waiting for. The reasons were all about me!
1) To prove that I could. I've spent the past three years writing The Apothecary's Apprentice in various forms and plot lines. As much as I loved it, it will never see the light of day, and that's OK. But I needed to know that I could write different characters, different settings, different plots, and I needed to know that I could love those just as much if not more than that poor, over-worked story I'd just ditched. And I needed to know that it wouldn't take me another three years to do it!
2) Because I grew to love my new world and my new characters. I really did. I loved getting to know them, I loved the ever growing internal map that I'd been building, and I loved the way everything blossomed, grew, illuminated itself. I can walk the corridors of my house as though I've physically been there. I can have conversations with my new characters and they will talk back. I know it. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write, and the more I wanted to give my characters their resolution.
3) Because I enjoyed the process. I approached this novel in a slightly different way, a less structured way. As I said, I had an outline, and Lovely Agent and I had discussed it. I started writing knowing where I was going. Normally I plot out every chapter, every detail before I write. This time I let things happen more organically. If the scene I was intending to write turned into a scene with its own agenda, I gave it freedom. If characters wanted to wriggle free of their set traits, I let them. If new characters wrote themselves onto the page, I went with them. The latter third of the story changed several times as the characters grew and the world gained depth. The story I ended up writing is not the one I set out to write, but I can honestly say it's far better this way. I've learned an awful lot from the writing process and it's been so much fun.
So there you have it. I have a first draft. I know there are changes, I know I have a lot of work ahead, but if the revision process is as enjoyable as the first draft I know that I'll love every minute of it. And, of course, I need a new deadline - good draft ready to send to Lovely Agent in September. Please feel free to remind me!