It took four days of writing and an additional day typing it up on the laptop but I have just completed my first story. The first draft that is. It’s come in at 5,389 words, some of which are editorial notes so they don’t really count. Is that long or is it short? I have no idea. It feels short but it is just an episode of a greater story set in a novel that is still bubbling away in my head.
It’s also light when compared to the four days I spent writing it but the truth is I never really wrote for more than a couple of hours a day. The final session I wrote 900 words in 90 minutes. That’s probably just shy of my goal: 2000 words in three hours writing. I don’t write that fast or that long yet but that’s okay for now.
I want to talk about the myriad details that went into creating the story, all the cosmic gears that fell into place to drive the writing but without the actual story in front of you I’m sure it would be very boring. And since only the first draft is complete I’m not ready to ‘open the door’ so to speak.
I will say a couple of things on it though. The working title is “White Mist. Red Evening” (sounds like chengyu, those four character Chinese idioms. I wonder how it translates in Chinese). The plot was inspired by a dream fragment, a visual that defied the odds and stuck with me upon waking. It happened to also come with (or was that later?) a single word in English, “banaca” (don’t ask me, I have no idea why). Combine with some Magic and running it through the old Japanese translatorfier and I had the basics of my story.
The characters actually came earlier, out of one of my sewing projects, but they were just minor characters waiting patiently in the green room of my mind.
The final piece came when I was sitting in the library. I was working with Candy Wars, my first story that I’ve mentioned before. King says that you have to keep riding the wave of enthusiasm when you are writing a story. You need to keep momentum otherwise the characters grow stale and you’ll lose the passion. I was doing that for Candy Wars but I hit a wall which will require a bit of ground work on my part.
So I was sitting on a couch stuck for inspiration. I sat there and let my mind drift, almost nodding off at times, for an hour and a half. I had been watching the people come in and if you’ve ever been to Customs House library you’ll see that all the newcomers do the same thing and that is they take touristy photos of themselves standing over the model of Sydney set into the floor.
I’m not sure how or what but something clicked and I had my setting. There was even a guy sitting next to me on the couch dropping f-bombs every second word over the phone. He made it into the story too.
I did worry that I was not following King’s advice to stick with the first story. Of course having started the second one, should I then halt its momentum and slog away at the first one? In this case I think the answer was clear and it worked out but I can see it could be a nasty dilemma in the future.
The story seemed to flow from scene to scene as the ink flowed from pen to paper. One funny thing did occur while I was writing. I ran out of pages in my notebook which was a first for me as a writer. Then the ink ran out of my pen. These are good things to happen to a writer (so long as you have more of them).
Another piece of advice from On Writing is that once you finish the first draft you should put it away for six weeks or sufficient time to come at it with fresh eyes when it’s time for the second draft. So I’m going to put my baby into the incubator for a couple of weeks at least. Sleep tight.