A couple of weeks ago I finished the first draft of my book.
In my mind the event would be marked by enjoying a slow beer and sinking back into my chair with a certain sense of accomplishment. I would have hurdled the first and biggest task.
Instead I had a melt down.
A two day melt down.
I have no idea how other writers work, but my first draft was a fractured affair. I had a strong idea of what I wanted to say and topics I wanted to cover but much of the draft was just me following my nose. One idea would lead to another which would, in turn conflict with something I had previously written. I didn’t write chronologically. Instead I opted to write what felt good and fresh at the time. I was writing impulsively.
It didn’t matter what or when or who it happened to. Just write freely I was told. That’s what all the advice pointed to and it felt correct and it felt good, most of the time.
After one year of writing and multiple folders in my computer box, I had enough words to fill a book. A totally shite book. Hence the meltdown.
My book resembles an unfinished jigsaw. I’ve got the frame intact but the centre has big punch holes through it. You can’t see the whole picture.
Even writing about it now is giving me some weird anxiety.
Its the first time I’ve thought that the task is too big for me and that I might not be able to finish the book.
It felt oppressive. Like a big weight had been thrown onto my shoulders. It should have been the other way around.
I actually sat and thought, “What have I done? What have I started?”
Two things came to my aid.
Firstly Naomi. She always helps in more ways than I can convey in this post. (In fact, one day I should dedicate an entire post to her. She’s that important. Seriously.)
I’m not one for promoting products on here but Scrivener has helped a great deal and credit is due. It dug me out of a hole.
I had previously heard of Scrivener but decided not to use it for my first draft as I just wanted to write. Pure and simple. To learn a whole new piece of software with all the bells and whistles a writer could ever want sounded a lot like procrastination to me at the time. And at that time it would have been. But now it is not. Now I need it to move forward.
Scrivener is a programme aptly described as a writers work shed. Designed by a writer, for writers. It’s downloadable and has a thirty day trial period. (Not thirty calendar days, but the first thirty days you physically use it.)
Imagine a student scrambling to get to class on time. He clutches his work books and folders close to his chest but he can’t stop them from spilling them to the ground.
Scrivener puts all of those folders into binders, labels them, formats them, sticks them in a big bag and even brings along all of his research too.
I’ve started writing my second draft with Scrivener and so far so good. I’m not having meltdowns anymore, which is a cheeky bonus. For the first time my book is linear and the amount of work I still have to do doesn’t feel insurmountable.
But even if it does, even if I’m climbing the walls by the end of my second draft I know someone who will always help.