The other day I posted this picture on my social media to celebrate a small personal milestone: I reached the end of the first draft of A Company of Rogues, which will be book 3 in my Cupids Trilogy and is scheduled to be released in Fall 2023. (If you look closely you can probably deduce what the last line is, but that’s no spoiler because that is a placeholder line; I’m 99.99% certain it won’t be the last line when the book is published).
I post things like this because as a writer, I feel like it’s vitally important to celebrate any wins you get. For most of us, the universe is not just handing out gold stars, so sometimes you’ve gotta get your own shiny gold paper and cut them out and pin them to your own chest.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Every writer works differently, but for me, “The End” is just the beginning. I start writing a historical novel by doing some research, but before I get too deep into that process, I have to begin writing. Because I don’t know what I need to know until I’m sure where the story is going, and to find that out, I have to actually write it.
I envy those writers who can work from detailed outlines — I sometimes have a few rough point-form notes on where the plot is going, but it’s all subject to change, because I figure out a lot of things along the way. And then, when I finally have something down on paper — which in the case of this book, took about four or five months of writing in concentrated bursts every few weeks — it’s a mess. It’s unwieldy; it’s way too long; it has pieces that don’t fit together; it has plot lines that I’ve completely dropped and have to make notes to myself to go back and pick up.
But it is, quite literally, better than nothing.
When I’ve written nothing, I don’t know enough about my characters to know what they might be doing by the end of the story. I can’t research because I don’t know yet what information I’m going to need. I’m in awe of writers who have that all planned out beforehand, but I don’t think one way of doing it is better than another. It’s just that after many years and many books, I know what works for me. And what works is to push through on a first draft, no matter how untidy, inconsistent, and filled with inexplicable gaps and terse notes to myself (my favourite, at the end of a scene, is still “Like this, but better!” in hopes that eventually I will know how to write something like that, only better than I was able to do on my first try).
So, now I have over 120,000 words written on Book Three of the Cupids Trilogy. Ultimately, this book needs to come in at under 95,000 words, but that’s OK, because at least 25,000 of the words I’ve written so far — probably more — aren’t going to be needed in that final draft that is still a far-distant dream. They’re words I had to write to get to where I was going, to figure out what I needed to know. They’re essential, yet disposable.
It may not be the most efficient system, but it’s mine.
Fellow writers, what’s yours? Does “The End” mean “The End” for you — or just the beginning?