Feeding the Penguin

The writing is just rolling along! I have another 4,000+ words done, and I’m beginning to feel that I can actually make my deadline. I know that the rewriting is going to be very hard work, especially as I’ll have maybe two weeks to do it, but I’m feeling that excitement that comes from knowing that I can finish a first draft.

Now, I’ve finished a first draft before, and I had a deadline for that one, too. The deadline was seventy-two hours; I did it on the three-day novel contest weekend.  I recommend this as a kick-start if you have a novel you’re just not getting around to.

The thing is, the fact that I did it once doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to do it again. We have the term “one-hit wonder” because there are such things. The first time I wrote a short story, a really good one, I wondered if I had another in me. Same thing when I wrote my first piece of humour. I wondered, “Can I do this again? Or is that all I’ve got?”

It turned out that I had lots more stories, good ones, and that, yes, I could write another piece of humour. I’ve written quite a few of both since then. Novels are different. They’re not an afternoon’s commitment, or a day’s, for that first draft. They’re weeks of plot and character and setting and subplot. You have to create an internally consistent world, know your characters and your landscape and convey them to others. From some of the feedback I’ve had from my fellow binge writers, I think I’m doing a good job of that.

Yesterday I wrote four thousand words. (!!!!) I could hardly believe it. The episode I wrote was emotionally charged, and a turning point in the story, and when I came up out of it I felt a little wrung out. More than a little, really. But I also felt like I could complete this. I’ve reached the crisis, and I know what happens from here.

So now I see the light at the end of the tunnel – a tunnel lined with origami penguins – and it’s neither a flamethrower nor an oncoming train. I’m proving that I’m not a one-hit wonder in the finishing-first-drafts-of-novels category. Oh, sure, I have yet to sell a novel. In fact, I have yet to get a novel to the point where I feel I can pitch it to an agent. My first novel is in its third draft, though, and I’ll get there eventually.

But right now – right now – I’m on the homestretch of the first draft of my second novel. I can’t begin to tell you how good that feels.

Pass me another penguin.

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2 Responses to Feeding the Penguin

  1. Janet Bucklew says:

    I’ve wondered if there was anything else “in there,” but I keep getting snippets that turn into stories. I’m working on a novel as well, so I understand all the emotional what-ifs that go on in your mind. I’ve been operating in the nonfiction world for years as a historian. Being brave and stepping out into fiction is definitely a leap. Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration to the rest of us!!

  2. ecreith says:

    History is one of my loves, especially mediaeval England, just post-Conquest to about Elizabeth I. Well, that’s Renaissance England, then.

    What is your novel about? There are so many fascinating gaps in history that can be filled with novels, and who better than an historian to write them? The most I’ve managed is an 8,000 word mystery set in 1086.

    Thanks for tuning in, Janet!


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