First draft: done
The pond novel exists as a complete draft, with all the caveats
This week in writing
This morning I wrote the last chapter of the pond novel (for now).
The messy middle of this one felt long, though really it lasted less than a year. The nice thing about having this weekly log is that I can tell you exactly when the shiny new novel feeling wore off and the dread set in, and I can also tell you exactly when I broke through the wall and could tell that yes, I was really going to finish the thing. (Spoiler: it was very late in the process.)
Here’s a rough timeline:
September 2022: After joking about doing a collaborative novel project for more than a year, Anna and I had our first planning session in August of 2022 and I began writing on September 1.
October 2022: All the fun that comes with early drafting.
November 2022: We hit 20k words.
December 2022: Things started to slow down around the holidays. I procrastinated by refreshing my submissions spreadsheet.
March 2023: I felt stuck.
April 2023: I moved back to the glass house novel for a breather. April was also when I joined Chelsea Hodson’s Morning Writing Club, which was exactly the right thing at exactly the right time for my routine.
May 2023: While working on the glass house novel, I had a minor breakthrough on the pond novel.
July 2023: Back to the pond novel.
August 2023: I got COVID, which slowed me down for a couple of weeks. I printed the thing out and read it, probably because that’s all I felt capable of doing.
September 2023: Anna and I started what became our weekly ritual in the fall: meeting for beers, pizza, and book talk on Wednesdays.
October 2023: I committed to writing forward, despite the many plot holes and inconsistencies, despite all my uncertainty. I did my very best to ward off slumps, though all fall I felt a slump coming on.
November 2023: I joined the Ungodly Hour Writing Club, which again was just the right thing at just the right time for my routine.
December 2023: With the draft at 260 pages, I took a little break to work on something other things while Anna read it and gave notes. Honestly, it was only at the very end of the month, reading her notes and getting back into it, that I felt confident that I could actually finish the thing.
January 2024: Here we are. It’s a complete first draft with alllllllllllll the caveats. When I say draft, I mean DRAFT. When I say first, I mean FIRST. I could go into all the things I know need to be nixed, fixed, or fleshed out, but why? That’s what the second draft is for; today is for celebrating a milestone.
Looking back, it’s so clear that accountability is what helped us get to a full first draft in… let’s call it five seasons.
Sending an email to Anna every Friday outlining what I got done that week and questions that came up.
Sending 10 pages to my writing group every Sunday.
Showing up to my two writing clubs, 5:30-6:30am with Sara and 8:30-9am with Chelsea.
Sending this newsletter every week! Whether people read it or not doesn’t matter because (no offense) it’s primarily for myself!
Without these daily and weekly commitments, I’m fairly certain I would still be stuck in the middle because 2023 was hard. But showing up for things I’ve committed to is one thing I do really well, and that’s exactly why I weave all this accountability into my writing life. With this kind of long project, it helps to deeply understand what motivates you. For someone else, so many obligations would be counterproductive to getting any work done. For me, they are fuel.
Now what? I will send the draft to my agent (Hi, Ashley! 👋) to see if she thinks there’s anything here. We may send it to a few beta readers, too — Anna and I need to talk about whether we want notes now or after the next draft.
In the meantime, I will stop thinking about the pond novel and work on a revision of my nonfiction project.
This week in reading
I started a couple of books from my revision reading list: I Love Dick by Chris Kraus and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. I’m also listening to Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being on audio. He reads it, and his voice is so soothing that at times I want to fall asleep. The whole thing feels like a meditation, which I think is what he was going for. And The New Yorker just arrived with a new short story by Rivka Galchen, one of those writers for whom I will drop everything to read their latest.
My first round of snail mail to TNN subscribers who signed up for it went out this week!
I used these postcards from The Believer and I did not look at which postcard was going to which person until after I had addressed them, so if you believe in serendipity and signs from the universe, feel free to read something into yours.
Love to you all.