A month or two ago it was my birthday and, partly to celebrate as much as get feedback, I shared an excerpt from the book I’m writing. The excerpt is still available from the menu on this page (Wildwood Sample Chapter) for those interested in reading. This was obviously an early version of the first chapter and I wanted to see if anyone could spot any problems that I was blind to simply by being too close to the book. I got a lot of advice and put some of that to work throughout the entire book, getting rid of extraneous characters who served no purpose but to make the world seem more populated, making the cuts last longer so that we could get to know characters better, and adding more detail to events so that the humour in the book became an addition to rather than the point of certain rogue sentences.
All this time I was still writing the book, implementing new ideas and making the individual history of the characters and world more apparent. And now, I’ve finished. The book is story complete. First draft done. Well, I say the first draft is done but that isn’t completely true. Rather than writing the story and then editing it in runs later on, I’ve been doing a lot of editing as I went along. The version of the book that I’ve just counted as story complete is more like the twelfth draft than the first due to this, with every section having had at least two or three major editing passes. All that remains is to spellcheck the book and make a final editing run and I’m ready to publish.
Now comes the hard part. I have to put the book away for a couple of months. During that time I’ll be giving Kim a notebook and a copy so that she can help me with finding any tense and spelling problems as well as any nightmare sentences that run on and on and never seem to end even though the punctuation keys are right there within reach and all it would take is a single tap to enter a full stop like this one here. She’ll read through first to see if the story makes sense (if it doesn’t I need to do some rewrites) and then with a view to editing. All this time I won’t be looking at the book at all so that, when I finally pick it up again, it is all fresh enough for me that I can look at it with new eyes.
What I shall be doing instead is working on some of the extra short stories I want that give a deeper idea of how this world works. These stories should be complete side projects that can be skipped by anyone who reads the books, and yet add new layers to the story when read alongside them. Characters in the books will sometimes have a little of their history revealed in these stories while the creatures and events in the stories should pretty much all tie in with the main storyline without being essential reading. I’ll also be experimenting with new genres in these storylines, with ideas ranging from murder mysteries all the way to traditional holiday stories. I immediately started new project files for each of the short stories that will round out this phase of my series. Each one then had the synopsis split into sections that need to be written and all of the notes were then included in the relevant sections. All of these bits on information were on Evernote anyway up to that point, but I feel that arranging them ready to be written will allow me to start them properly.
The next order of business was celebration. I’ve always foreseen myself finishing a novel and relaxing with a good cigar and glass of whiskey. As I quit smoking almost two years ago the cigar is out of the question, but I have recently started drinking again so there was whiskey on hand. Before pouring the drink though, I needed a meal to celebrate with. I set out into the sub-zero temperatures that cover this dark and inhospitable city, and went all the way to KFC before ordering what can only be described as a hammock of chicken. As most of it was spicy chicken with hot sauce my glass of whiskey had to wait while I sipped a beer and wondered what other orifices would suffer from that spicy coating later in the night. The whiskey is, at the time of writing, sitting in front of me and calling my name. “Come” it says, “You’ve earned me.” I can’t help but to agree with it.
I feel like a new man for having achieved this. So many times I’ve set plans to do something like this and yet I’ve allowed other things to get in the way almost every time. Oh, for those wondering, I started this book on the 16th of June and finished it on the 16th of January, oddly enough. This first draft of my book comes in at a very respectable 91,534 words. Not bad for seven months of writing occasionally.