One year, one week, and 700 pages later, the rough draft of my first novel is finished. I was crying when I wrote the final scene. When I started out so long ago to write a novel based on my misadventures as a video game tester at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises) for six years, I had the first chapter in hand, a broad outline divided into seven parts with seven chapters each, and the final scene in mind. Between the first and last chapters, the middle turned out to be a journey not only for my characters but for myself as a writer.
The rough draft was a sprawling mess. I wrote only the events concerning the main viewpoint characters, leaving out the secondary storylines and minor characters. My inspiration was the “Genshiken” manga series by Shimoku Kio, where a group of college students are bound together by their love of anime/cosplay/manga/video games (the Japanese slang term is otaku) and their relationships with each other in their club room. (Video game testers are not that much different when working 80 hours a week in the same room.) There’s no overriding story arc because each story was serialized in a magazine before being published in book form; when read together in all nine volumes, a common story emerges. The novels I enjoy the most are often a series of little stories woven together into one fabric.
Two-thirds of the draft was composed behind the steering wheel of my car while taking my hour-long lunch breaks at work. I wrote one to five pages a day for five days a week during that time. When I got laid off from work four months ago, I had to readjust to writing in my home office. Using the typewriter and scanning my pages into the computer, my page count was two to eight pages a day and my chapters went from 16 pages to ten pages (those longer chapters will probably split up in the next draft). I wrote 38 pages in longhand during the past weekend’s writing marathon to finish the rough draft. Writing a few pages a day really does add up in time.
Now that’s the rough draft is done, what’s next?
I still have 75 pages of handwritten and typed manuscript to enter into the e-file, print out the last pages for my first reader and my own reading copy (orange paper to discourage editing with a red pen), pack everything away, and forget about this story for the next three months. When September 6th comes around, I’ll read the whole thing, make notes, tear it apart to create a detailed outline, and write a new draft. I’m planning to write two drafts in the next year before I start looking for an agent.
Meanwhile, I still have 20 short stories circulating in the slush piles, a new political short story to finish writing, a vampire novella to edit before finishing my short story collection, and developing the outlines for my next two novels that will be 400 pages each. When I’m editing a new draft of my first novel, I’ll be writing the rough draft for either my second or third novel. Being a busy writer means keeping the pipeline full.
In the final words of my viewpoint characters: “What a year!”
NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.