If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably seen my tweet yesterday:
— Céline Terranova ☕️📚 (@CelineTerranova) September 13, 2018
After ten months and a half, I have finally completed the second draft of my novel Healers. This new draft took me more time than the first (9 months) and it was a nightmare by the end. During these 10 months, I received a lot of feedbacks, a lot of questions and especially a lot of encouragements, so I thought I would share with you the battle that was this second draft, with the ups and downs, hoping that my experience might help some of you!
Chronology of the second draft
September 2017: Having completed the first draft at the end of July, I started to read it and realised that there was A LOT of work to make it readable. And I mean, A LOT. I had started knowing the characters better, which meant that many of their actions didn’t really work anymore, and the whole structure of the first draft was wrong. I understood that this story needed a profound re-write to become something that I would be proud of.
November 2017: After 2 months of preparation, re-outlining the whole story, putting on paper everything I knew about the characters, I started writing the second draft for NaNoWriMo. I honestly thought it would be easy. After all, I had already written the story, right? WRONG!
December 2017: I very narrowly reached the 50K needed to win NaNoWriMo and I was completely exhausted. This new draft was nothing like the first one. The scenes that I thought would need simple polishing became completely different versions of themselves, and I wrote entirely new chapters. I had estimated that I needed 50% of new content, but it became a good 80%. And I had only reached the midpoint. I had a whole second half of a novel to write.
January 2018: I set myself a new deadline to finish the second draft by the end of April (Camp NaNoWriMo). I realised, however, that from the midpoint to the big fight at the end, I would need to write everything new. 100% of new scenes. Nothing that I had written in the first draft applied to this new version of the story. It completely demoralised me, even though I could tell that this draft was better than the previous one.
April 2018: It became obvious that I would not make my deadline due to another project having taken some of my time (for very good reasons: I co-wrote a short film with the talented Gerry Melendez). I also wrote my short story “Sealed Bid” during that month, that was recently published in Kyanite Press. It was a busy month, and I must say that I enjoyed writing these other projects more than I enjoyed writing the novel. I set myself another deadline: to finish the second draft by the end of July, for YALC (Young Adult Literary Convention in London).
July 2018: Once again, I missed my deadline. I actually went from “not enjoying” to “frankly hating” this story. I’m not sure why, I think it is a combination of self-hating and strong doubts about the marketability of this story. I seriously thought about giving up, and believed that this story was doomed to fail. Fortunately, I am a very stubborn person, and I decided that no matter what the story was going to become, I needed to finish it. I needed a success. I was lucky to find a great editor (Vicky Brewster), which pushed me to set my final and firm deadline: September.
August / September 2018: This last month and a half was hell. I was sick twice, and I went on holiday. Worse: the story kept extending. I kept adding things because the end was not good enough. Some scenes were present in the first draft, but others were completely new. I think I was around 75% new scenes again. I really felt like I would never finish. But guess what? I did!
I hate this story so much right now that I need to distance myself from it. I am going to take a break from writing to be able to rest and heal properly, and then I will start a completely different project. I am toying with the idea of a non fiction book, or a short story, or a podcast. I don’t lack ideas, just stamina.
I am really happy that my novel will be read by someone objective and professional. I need an outside perspective, and some help with my style. Writing in English is much easier for me now, but I want to improve my style to make it less dry. I am not sure, however, when I’ll get back to the story. I need time to forget how difficult this draft was. There will be a lot of editing to do after that draft, so I need to be in a positive mindset to start that part of the process. I still have the same doubts about the story, and whether or not I’ll ever be able to publish it and get people interested in it. I am trying to see the huge amount of progress I’ve made while writing it. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and as a person. So many professional writers talk about the novels they wrote before their “big break”. Perhaps this is one of them? Perhaps the next one will be better? Perhaps I’m overthinking this?
I am pretty sure I am not the only one feeling this about a current work in progress. I think the only solution is to share these feelings, because they can be really destructive. Feel free to vent or talk about your own experience in the comments or on social media. I’ll be happy to listen!