Mindful Mondays – Week 41 – The First Draft… Or a Chinese Dinner

First drafts are a lot like other challenges in life. So often I am told by those that do not write, how impossible they think it would be to write a book. I am confident though, that like any challenge, if the desire exists, the challenge can be met. I must admit that there are some aspects of writing that come easy to me. Others though, not so much. Most of my struggle can be found during the first draft stage of writing.

The first draft of any project is somewhat like preparing a special birthday dinner. Let me explain. This past December, my son requested a Chinese dinner for his 18th birthday celebration. The list included sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken, chow mein, beef and broccoli and the almighty fortune cookie among others. No problem you may think. Take out is only ten minutes up the road my husband pointed out. Me, being the “Mom” and wanting to make the day a special one, decided to make the feast from scratch.

After all how many of these milestones will we have left to celebrate with a young man on the verge of adulthood? This doesn’t take into account the fact that one, I don’t eat much in the way of Asian cuisine. Two, I have never attempted to make such a meal. And three, and only upon reflection after the fact, I do not have enough stove top burners to pull off such a feat.

So there I sat, a few weeks before the big day. I scoured the internet for the perfect recipes. My grocery list resembled something of a foreign language quest. I visited seven, count them, seven stores in search of ingredients I had never known to exist. Pulling my hair out, I sought guidance from store staff only to be greeted with a blank stare and a shrugging of shoulders.

The First Draft... Or A Chinese Dinner

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Writing under the wire. Pushing myself towards a deadline.

Writing under the wire hasn’t truly existed for me since teachers posted due dates on notice boards in school several years ago. It was only just in the last year that I began using a writing deadline again to help keep me on track with the goals I had laid out for myself.

To be honest, I was a little haphazard about it to begin with. I set out vague ideas of what I wanted to accomplish and then went about stabbing at things in the dark to see if anything would stick. Some of those ideas morphed into actual plans with a specified course of action. Others fell by the wayside as lack of interest on my part, suffocated any life that remained in them.

I realize now, looking back, that this is the road that leads to that place where all the stories I was seeking reside. The road was far from easy, straight, or entirely visible when I set out upon its path. But it was always there offering me somewhere to walk. Somewhere to wander around until I got my bearings. There were side streets to distract and entice me. There were hills, some worthy of the effort it takes to climb them, others not so much.

Which way I travel is completely up to me. This is how diversity in our world exists. When different individuals choose different paths along the same road. It’s quite magnificent really, when you think about it.

There is always a choice in life, in story telling, in everything we do. So, a couple of months ago, I made a choice. Then, I made a plan. I had to educate myself on things I’d never encountered before. I had to become both the student and the master. The road was bumpy and often fraught with rabbit holes, but it was my road so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

At the beginning of March, I established a deadline to have the first draft of my novella, Becoming Mrs. Smith, completed in one months time. As the days passed, I was writing under the wire and loving every minute of it. I wrote six to seven days a week. I was determined to sit in front of my computer until I had conjured 2000 plus words a day.

Some days I wanted nothing more than to veg in front of the TV or read the rest of the book I was already deep into enjoying. The deadline loomed in front of me and oddly enough, that was all it took. That deadline kept me seated, working away until it no longer felt like work. Words began to flow and I found the heart of the story and in the process, I learned even more about what I was capable of.

I missed my deadline by three days. Still, I accepted this as a success as I had become a better writer. I had become more dedicated, more driven, and certainly more focused along the way. And now, I have completed a first draft that I am proud of. I have a few weeks of intense editing ahead of me, but you can be sure, I have a deadline for that too.

Writing towards a deadline for Becoming Mrs. Smith.
First draft completed!

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Becoming Mrs. Smith, a novella is born…

Several months ago, I began writing a novel. I was happily moving forward, creating chapters, enhancing subplots, and getting into the minds of all the players. Then it happened. Two of my characters began to pester me. Actually, they demanded to be heard. Generally around the inconvenient time of two o’clock in the morning, they would clamor for me to tell their side of the story.

I pushed their voices to the side for weeks, certain they would quieten as the novel’s progress continued. “Why can’t I explain how I felt when he decided to travel via the World War II express?” said one character in a somewhat childlike voice, laced with pout a mile long. “If she gets to tell her story, so do I” demanded another adding, “Why can’t he just forget about her? He should be focusing his attention on me.” They argued inside my head daily, while I continued on my novel writing path, countering their protests with logical insights, such as too much backstory makes a boring novel.

Then I happened upon a social media post that simply said, “I never truly understand my antagonist until I’ve seen them as the protagonist in their own story.” It hit me like a bolt of lightning. Aren’t we all the hero in our own story? Why, yes we are, I thought and those pesky but vocal characters should get their chance to tell their story too. So the decision to write two novellas prior to launching the main novel was made.

The voices have quietened a touch as I write novella number one, at least enough to allow me to sleep most nights. I am happy to announce that novella number one titled, Becoming Mrs. Smith will be released electronically in the late spring, early summer of 2017.

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All who wander are not lost. Announcing novella number one, Becoming Mrs. Smith
There is always more than one path that leads to any given destination.

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