First Drafts: From Beginning to Middle

I'm currently in the middle of a first draft of the second book of this talking cat fantasy series, tentatively titled The Sharpest Claw. I thought I would share with you some overall thoughts on the process so far.

First of all, when I talk about writing a first draft, I'm referring to the linear act of writing a book. This is after an idea has whispered in my ear and characters have danced around in my head, after notes, scene lists, and arrangements of moments to make up a story. When I hunker down with my notebook to write chapters, that to me is when the first draft officially begins.

For people who are interested in time and writing, I started on this first draft on August 13th. I write an hour a day. At this moment, October 14th, I'm in the middle of things. The fur is just about to fly. As with everything else, all writers are different, but this is a fairly consistent pace for me.

This will be my fourth book. I'm noticing now certain emotional processes that seem to occur with each first draft. So here they here are. Spoiler alert: I'm ending this post with where I am right now, the middle. I will write more about the middle to end later on. So here goes:

Exuberance: When I start a first draft, it seems effortless and fun. This is the “piece of cake” phase. I try to enjoy this as much as I can because I know it's not going to last.

Confusion: Characters start to “misbehave.” They act outside the confines of the outline. This is when I pace around the house in my bathrobe muttering, “Something is wrong.” At this point, I need Spock ears because I need to seriously listen to what my characters have to say.

Enlightenment: A realization of what to do often occurs right after I wake up, or I'm in the shower, or I'm in the middle of a walk. A sentence will float into my head that is the answer to everything. That idea is generally followed by a Snoopy dance.

Reassessment: Often, a few days later, I see that the answer wasn't entirely right. It needs to be tweaked. Flap B actually needs to fold under Flap D in order for everything to work.

Ennui: I am just getting out of this phase now. It's like being in a swamp, where I feel like I know what I need to write, but it seems like drudgery, like if I lift up my pen, my head will nod, and I will fall off into a Rip Van Winkle-style sleep. It's all a trick. The characters are just about to get into some serious pain. Who wants to venture there? But once I realize that's what's going on now, I'm wide awake again, ready to dive deep.

So that's where I'm at. If you would like to comment on your process of first-draft writing, please do so. Again, I will write more about this once the draft is done.