What I’ve Learned About Writing While Writing My First Draft

Well, fellas and females, I’ve got an announcement.

 

It’s officially official.

 

I FINISHED THE ROUGH DRAFT OF MY NOVEL!!!! *cries tears of joy*

 

I started Though He Slay Me as a, oh, maybe twelve year old kid–in any case, many years ago. This novel–I can accurately it has changed my life. It has made me look in directions I’ve never dreamed of. It has brought me joy day by day. It has made my Google search history look a little bit…odd. It has improved my vocabulary, my researching skills, my novels. It has changed my life.

 

I’ve learned a lot of things about writing–and about life–that I’d like share to you because of this journey, which is far from over. I’ve only written the first draft; there’s still rewriting and editing to do–but I feel good. I didn’t know I’d ever make it this far until now. And so, here are some quotes, some funnies, and just some ‘stuff’  I learned about writing and about life while on this adventure.

 

 

 1. Writing is hard.

Now, I know I’ve said this before but…until I really started writing my first draft, I had NO. IDEA. what I was getting myself into. All that writer’s block. All those long hours refusing to open up Word because I knew I wouldn’t like what I saw. All those clacked keys. Granted, I love it, but back then I wasn’t prepared at all.

Become a Writer They Said It Will Be Fun They Said! 3 Ways to Make Writing a Novel Easier #amwriting #KeepOnWriting

But, in all honestly, I wouldn’t change my decision about choosing to become a writer, except maybe do it earlier. It has been one of best decisions of my life.

 

 

2. Everyone wants to read your story.

You have friends. You have to respect your friends, you told yourself. “I mean, come on, self. We can’t just let them down…but they don’t understand what a rough draft is! This is absolute trash…why do they want to read it?!” Now, I’m not saying I don’t like the support, and occasionally I do allow some of my peeps to read my work because somebody is actually going to take it seriously and I think it would be good for them to critique me. But, eventually, I got to the point where I realized something: They are reading a story that will not be the same two years from now. This will be different. It will be better. It will be good. And I don’t want all my friends to maybe not read my work when I get published because “Oh, I already that book last year.” And, I want them to be surprised at how good I can become and not see me stumbling along each step of writing, re-writing, and editing process. I want to blow their socks off.

 

it's a rOUGH DRAFT GO AWAY
This is me now-a-days.

 

3. First drafts are absolute trash

I didn’t really know much about the writing process until I actually started writing this book, and let me tell you….this, the first draft, should be burned. I guess I never really thought about how difficult writing is and how many drafts it takes to perfect a book until I was about ten pages in to my novel. Rewriting? Editing? Sounds great to me now. There are so many plot holes and inconsistencies that I didn’t realize could even exist and are now in my first draft.

http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-it-s-only-a-first-draft-2/

 

 

4. Writing is more than inspiration

Now this is one I struggled with. I mean, to continue working on your manuscript, you have to get in the mood and be inspired, right? Wrong. Do you want to know how I finished my novel? I forced myself to write. I wrote when I didn’t want to. I dragged my reluctant self off Pinterest and made myself open up my word document. I hated what I saw as I scrolled down to the page I was working on. I made myself clack the keys, even if it was only to write a couple sentences or a paragraph. And do you know what? It worked. I hated it,  but it worked. Like Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

 

5. It’s okay to not name your characters after friends

So, I have some friends who mean well. They really do. And because of my love for them, I named some characters after them at their pleading. Not necessarily with my friends’ names, but with names similar names or names they picked out. I even created a character or two just so they could be named after a friend. Looking back, I’ve realized that this was a terribly stupid idea. Here’s why:

 

I just created extra side characters who I would’ve probably deleted in the second draft, as they aren’t necessary to the story at all, except now I’m playing with my friends’ feelings. And, even if I keep the characters, their names–which I thought were great at the time–no longer fit in with the name theme of the story. It just creates problems in general. Now, it is okay to occasionally name characters after friends. For example, in one of my current WIP, there is a character named Lizzie, named after my good friend Liz, who I’ve even considered naming one of my future children partially after. Liz didn’t know I named a character after her, and she wouldn’t have asked me to, anyway, because she’s that type of friend. Lizzie is one of the main characters in said story, and her name completely fits the theme of the book and won’t be changed. I’ve created a rule of thumb for myself: While first drafting, only name characters with names you love, and if named after friends, name them because of friendship, not because they asked you to.

 

6. Writing injury/sick scenes are HARDDD

Because basically you’re just listing off random things you found on WebMD. “She felt nauseated and had a migraine…” IT’S HARD TO MAKE IT SOUND GOOD, MAN. #whati’mrevisingin2nddraft #showdon’ttell

 

 

7. People are realistic and slow to believe in my dreams

So, obviously I already knew this before I really started writing THSM, but this really rocked me the farther I got in. Sometimes it just seemed like the world was out to get me, you know? I’d be having a good day and then somebody would say something about me writing and I’d just be like really? You don’t think I can do this, do you? I can remember times when I felt as if people didn’t believe in me. That they didn’t think I could actually finish my novel, or actually do some good revising, or actually get published. And they wanted me to know they didn’t believe in me. But I’ve finished my first draft. I’m going to do some good revising. I’m going to actually get published (hopefully!). For those who may have doubted me along the way, like I said before, I’m going to blow your socks off. Even if I don’t get published. Because I’m sticking with it. I’m improving, little by little. And, someday, my book is actually going to be good and I look forward to watching all of your guys’ jaws d r o p. 😀

 

8. Research is crucial

Now, I can understand why I wouldn’t need to research if my debut novel was set in a fictional world or in somewhere familiar, like the Midwestern United States. But no. My *hope-against-hope* debut novel is set in not only a different country, but also on a different continent and a different hemisphere. In other words, my characters are on the other side of the world in a place I’ve never been filled with people and animals I’ve never seen and culture I’ve never experienced. You see my problem? Not to mention it would be helpful to know the geographical structures of the country…In my defense, I started this novel when I was twelve, so I wasn’t exactly thinking ahead, but, looking back, I should’ve researched my novel before I started writing rather than after. If I had, I wouldn’t have so much trouble now, having to *cough cough* Google the country to find out more about it.

Pretty sure he’s talking to me!

 

9. You can have too many characters

Yep. I messed up. Like, so many people that I, the writer, can barely keep them straight? Annndd the spot where I introduce them all is a MAJOR info dump. Yuck, right? No wonder first drafts are trash.

 

 

10. Pinterest is a blessing…and a curse

Because, see, at first you’ve got beautiful character inspiration photos like this….

character inspiration

 

 

Robin's friend, Amarie, she was trained by her father to be a swordsman, because he had no sons to train. The boy is her half-brother, her mothers illegitimate child. Her father raised him as his own because he had no male heir.

 

But then you get addicted to reading writing prompts (and maybe making complete plots out of them…oh wait who does that? Ha ha…) like these:

 

Writing Prompt

 

Writing Prompt #29 "Do you not understand the concept of personal space?" "As your twin, I feel it is my duty to remind you that we gave up the idea of personal space the moment we both decided to be stuck in the same small space for 9 months." "If you're referring to when mom was pregnant, I had no say in that." Thanks to @miss._.artsy._ for the idea! #writing #prompt #writingprompts #storyidea #awriterslifeforme #justwrite #dailyprompt #writersofinstagram

 

Rose: I have NEVER BEEN so insulted! Othello: You don't listen much do you? Rose: Oh, shut up.

 

"What if the food's poisoned or something?" "Now why would the food be poisoned?"

 

writing prompt

And then you get addicted to posts like these…when you should be writing

 

What writers really do

 

 

all 37 of them and counting (O_o)

 

Ooh a new book idea! Been there, doing that.

 

 

 

Well, then! That about wraps it up, dearies! Are any of you fiction writers? Can you relate? What is your current status on your WIP? Let me know in the comments!

 

–Abby

 

*All photos are from Pinterest*

 

 

 

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Though He Slay Me Ramblings

I have decided that I really need to give an explanation for why I am writing Though He Slay Me.

 

Really, all the credit for inspiration should go to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

 

I was ten when I first picked up a copy of the original Tarzan of the Apes. I fell in love with John Clayton and was devastated when he died, along with his lovely wife. But then, there was a son who survived.

I followed that son on his journey from childhood to manhood. I loved how he was raised by apes who loved him as their own. I loved how he was smart and quick and agile, how he was caring for those he loved, especially his mother. And how he survived.

 

That was the part that really got me.

 

Survival in the jungle, I realized at age ten, was harder than I thought. Tarzan battled lions and apes with his bare hands, yet he know that being a man set him apart from the other animals. He knew that eating human flesh was wrong, so he ate deer and whatever else he caught with his rope or stabbed with his spear or killed with his strength.

 

Another thing that fascinated me was how he moved.

 

In all  the movies I had seen, Tarzan flew through the trees on vines. Not so. He climbed and leaped from branch to branch or swung on boughs, not vines. He was as graceful as a swan yet as strong as ox.

 

And when I was eleven, I decided that jungle life sounded fun.

 

I wanted to go to Africa, I told myself. I want to live like Tarzan. I want to run through the jungle being chased by apes and leopards. I want to leap from branch to branch in the treetops. I want to hunt, using only organic matter and my wits. I want to exist where few men dare to exist. I want to be in constant danger of my life and have fun.

 

And then, an idea known as Katie Riley was born.

 

couldn’t go to Africa, I knew, despite my daydreams. That was out of the question. I had no money and wasn’t born into a wealthy family. There was no way my parents were going to be able to pay my way, and probably not allow me to go, either. Nobody wants their teenage daughter in the jungle with no communication to the outside world. My being able to survive out there was highly illogical, anyway. The jungle wasn’t what I had dreamed, anyway. It was a lot more dangerous and frightful.

 

Ways I could get around this started forming in my mind. What if, for some reason, I was flying over central Africa when my plane crashed? Everyone else would be unconscious, and I wandered off, never to be seen from again, until several years later when I was finally found.

 

And then the Idea, the great, wonderful Idea occurred to me.

 

 

What if it wasn’t my plane that crashed?

What if it was a character’s?

 

I had tried to write once or twice before. I had started Soldier Boy and had written a few short stories and poems. But this was my first real inclination to write a full novel. So I started plotting.

 

Katie (or Jamie, I couldn’t decide) was a twelve-year-old girl who lived in Cairo (I was enthused by Egypt) as a missionary to the entire African continent. (How this would be possible, I have no idea. I was eleven. Bear with me.) When her favorite brother, Jack, was lost to the jungle after a plane crash in a tropical storm, Katie sets out to find him, as she cannot imagine life without him. (Talk about cliche.) Katie’s Search and Rescue chopper crashes in the jungle, also. As she is the only survivor, she must learn to live on her own, this learning many Tarzan-like skills.

 

From then on, my Idea blossomed.

 

Katie was definitely going to be her name. She was no longer twelve, but somewhere in the 14-15 age group. Her family and some others ran a small mission on the edge of the savanna. The goals of the mission were to reach ‘natives’ (for lack of a better term) to Christ. Incidents in the jungle realm changed, too. Though she was still to learn several Tarzan-like skills, her main crisis was her faith. She wanted her brother back badly, and everything she tried to do to find her why home and hopefully see her brother again (as she had a feeling he was found) seemed to be futile. Nothing was working. She was surviving, yes, but she was lost in the green abyss of the rain forest surrounding the Congo River. Finally, she would come to a breaking point where she knew she had to give it all up and give it to God. Whether she finds her family and gets home is still untold. (Mwahahahaha)

 

 

There are also several aspects to her breaking point (why she’s so afraid to lose Jack, etc.) and probably waaay too many subplots for a novel. But at this point,  I don’t really care. I plan to finish the rough draft before January 1st, 2018, and start editing soon thereafter. Hopefully I didn’t give too much away. Sometime I’ll do a post about why I like writing in general, but I love Katie’s story because it inspires me.

 

And it’s all because of a man named Burroughs wrote a novel that caught my attention and ultimately changed my life.

 

–Abby

Character Interview–Katie from Though He Slay Me

Me: Hello, Katie. It’s nice to finally be able to meet you after all these years. Did you know you were originally going to be named Jamie?

 

Katie Riley: Yes, Abby, I had heard that from my parents. I’m glad they named me Katie. Jamie is okay, but I prefer Jayma, especially for a middle name.

 

Me: That’s interesting. Anyway, since I want to ask you a few questions, I’ll start off with some simple ones.  How old are you and how many siblings do you have?

KR: I am fourteen. I have six siblings, four brothers, two sisters. I’m a middle child. My brothers are two sets of twins, one pair five years older than me, the other three years younger than me. Alice is the oldest and Becky is the baby of the family.

 

Me: Wow, that’s a lot. Do you have many interests, hobbies, or obsessions?

 

KR: *laughs*  You could say that I do. Music is one of my interests, I suppose. I play violin, so I guess you could say that it’s a hobby, too. A few other interests would be soccer, skiing, aerospace dynamics and engineering, carving, and molecular biology. To name a few hobbies…reading, obviously. I love to read. Ummm…reciting poetry, quoting Shakespeare, flying, tackle football with my brothers, riding Troop, playing chess, watching old war movies from the 40s.

 

Me: So, an obsession of yours would be…?

 

KR: I guess I don’t really have any…well, I guess you could say I’m obsessed with Jesus. *grins* He’s a noble Person to be obsessed with, isn’t He?

 

Me: He surely is. Speaking of Christianity, is it true that your family and a group of others is moving to Africa in a few short weeks?

 

KR: Yes, that’s true. We will be leaving for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We plan to set up a larger mission on the edge of the forest and gradually migrate into a smaller mission in the interior. The mainly untouched tribes will be who we are trying to reach primarily.

 

Me: How do you feel about this intercontinental move?

KR: *sighs* It’s okay, I guess. I mean, I know God wants us to go, but I’m going to hate leaving my extended family, some of my friends, and of course, my horse.

 

Me: I take it that Troop is your horse?

 

KR: Yes. He’s an old retired racehorse my dad bought for a few hundred at an auction. He’s really sweet.

 

Me: He sounds dreamy. You must love him a lot.

 

KR: Yeah. We’re giving him to my uncle before we move. He has a farm in Idaho.

 

Me: Potatoes, huh?

KR: You got it. Potatoes, a little bit of corn, some beans, alfalfa, a few hogs, two cows, and, sooner or later, Troop.

 

Me: So, what would you say it is your most embarrassing moment?

 

KR: Ummm…*laughs nervously* When I was seven, I thought this guy was a police officer….I was mad at Jack at the time…anyway, he wasn’t a police officer, and he thought what I said to him was hilarious. He picked me up, put me on his shoulder in the middle of the cold foods section of Walmart, and yelled out what I had said to everybody who would listen.

 

Me: Well, what did you say?

 

KR: I’d rather not let that cat get out, if you’ll pardon the expression.

 

Me: No problem. That’s the all time I have, though. Can we do this again sometime?

 

KR: Sure. God bless.

 

–Abby