Well I’ve finished my Third Chapter, the almost 12,000 words of it! I’m very proud of the writing (as far as draft zeros go) and it feels like I’ve “found” the core of my book. Found my feet so to say.
So much so that I’ve written a 4,000 plus word outline of my entire novel. A plan / guide for all of my viewpoints / characters. Everything I’ve written and everything I haven’t all the way to the end. Arcs and heroes journeys, betrayals and character tie ins and surprises and tragedies. If I can somehow pull this off, I think another of my dreams will have come true: I would have written something I would like (which hopefully others enjoy too).
This of course had its pluses and minuses. It meant writing entirely new scenes for parts of the book already written, it meant changing some big parts of what I had thought I had worked out. It meant a lot more work.
With this development I also made another decision. I’ve decided to set myself a schedule of writing every day, generally at the same time and for a minimum of an hour. So far it has been really successful.
Recently, one of my friends who is also trying their hand at writing a novel mentioned they had finished their first draft, which is an epic achievement in itself! They mentioned it was very very rough and they had done it with the mantra of “just keep going”. This lead me to the idea of wondering how everyone’s first drafts looked.
So, similar to the last blog post, here is an excerpt of what I would generally consider first draft worthy for my writing. Now, as a stitcher, this has already had a few passes of editing on it, and I’ve read it aloud twice. It still needs a lot of work but this is the point I need to get my writing to before I can move on to the next bit. I’m not much of a “just keep going” kind of writer I’ve realised. I need to stay engaged and excited about the story, about the characters, about exploring a scene, or developing a tone. And a big part of this is being happy with what I’ve written so far so that I can let go and move on, and so far this has worked for me.
It doesn’t work for everyone and I am aware this may be better or worse than others first draft, but for me this blog isn’t about humility or arrogance or believing i know what I’m doing (I don’t). It’s about honestly putting my process out there, what it’s like for me.
So I’ve finished my third chapter, I’m around 30,000 words deep into the novel so far, and I imagine the total book will be around 8-10 chapters long. It’s taken me almost two months to write the third chapter, wow!
Anyway. Here is an excerpt of my first draft (draft zero at the moment) of a scene I wrote a few days ago about two of my main characters meeting:
When Jean first saw Handi he was strolling casually down the road Ulitsa Chkalova wearing a leather jacket and white jeans over white sneakers. His skin was dark and his eyes were wide set and his black hair was long and styled up in a mohawk. Jean thought him crazy, some insane refugee on a one way collision course with a fight, that at any moment someone would stop him in his tracks, a punch would be thrown and no one would intervene. And some part of her hoped just this would happen, the days were becoming long and uneventful in the vacuum of her life before flight training and she yearned for something, anything to happen, and she figured anyone dressing that way probably deserved it.
But as Handi got closer and then crossed the street and the Russians she’d been smoking with snickered and whispered threatening words, Jean realised he was coming there, to the bar, and things could go very very badly, and she remembered the fighting at home, the violence and the speed of it, and in a second her guilty flight of fantasy for a taking down of this strange man turned to fear, an actual fear it could happen again here before her eyes. And that was not the world she wanted to save. Artyom, Petya and Ruslan stood shoulder to shoulder making a wall across the way, but Handi did not slow. Jean quickly extinguished her cigarette on the ground with her foot and from behind pushed them apart, “Leave him alone,” she said in what Russian she knew and they parted, and the man with the mohawk went inside.
Scanning the mostly empty room, Handi noticed the everything upholstered in a plush red fabric, the seats, the walls, the floor, the curtains and the bulkheads on the ceiling. He heard a tune wafting in the air, piano chords and a heavily accented baritone singing something familiar. He couldn’t see the singer’s face as he crossed the floor to the bar, but he did see everyone else’s. Six heads promptly turning on their stools and in their booths, watching him, following with their eyes. He didn’t see Jean when she parted the men, and he didn’t notice her as she stood in the door. But then again he didn’t know her. She was but a name on a list he’d read would be part of the Sirrius’ crew, someone he had imagined being lithe like a tennis player, with short cropped blonde hair and high cheek bones, and no one like that had been outside or was now in the bar, not that he had expected to run into Jean or the crew here anyway. He just wanted a beer, an ice cold beer and this was the closest place, Killfish Beerhouse. It would have been deathly silent had the piano player’s song not been ringing around the room joyous and rolling, a counterpoint to what he was actually feeling. Then he recognised the song, it wasn’t Russian, it was English. It was Elton John’s Rocket Man, the words jagged and jumbled. Handi withheld his chuckle and arrived at the bar.
On seeing the man before him, Egor the bartender (a thick-set man with a moustache half the size of his face) thought him a circus attraction, part of an elaborate hoax or prank and so doubled over and burst into a violent fit of laughter, so violent it felt like his jaw might disconnect from his face and like a halloween toy of old bounce along the floor chattering uncontrollably. So violent he felt himself subconsciously slapping his hand to the bar, as if the very act itself might reign back some self control, some modicum of composure. But instead he laughed long and hard and his chest hurt and each time he was close to eventually settling, every time he thought himself done, he would take to facing his new customer and then at the sight of the white pants and the leather jacket and the hair like a crest of a bird, he could not restrain himself and would break and burst out once again.
And the rest of the bar and those with Jean at the door burst too, erupting into a chorus of laughter. There was the rumbling of feet on the floor and the thudding of heavy glasses on table-tops and cheering and pointing. Osip the piano man, tried singing over the ruckus louder and louder as though it was a competition, “Rocket man!” he sang. “Burning out his fuse up here alone!” and the chorus was straining and twisting, the words no longer resembling anything the writer had likely intended. But the man stayed, steadfast and smiling as if he was in on the joke, and when eventually everyone had had their fill, the noise subsided and with it Egor collected himself and with both hands laid on the bar, spoke, “What do you want?” he asked.
And whilst Egor knew a good deal of English, he had never heard it sound the way the bird man made it sound right then before him in his bar.
“One beer thanks, mate,” said Handi.
When Jean heard the accent she knew who it was. This was post-discovery Russia, there were no Australians here, not for a thousand miles. The only Aussie here would have to be her Aussie, the Handi Nguyen she’d seen on the list, their systems analyst, the guy to manage Argo.
Still feeling the warmth in her face from her own fit of laughter, Jean instantly rushed across the room, her belly and breasts jiggling as she went. “He’s with me!” she called in stuttered Russian to Egor, and the barman relaxed. “Really Jean?” he said in his rumbling voice and reluctantly went about fetching a glass from under the bar and then from the spout poured a long pint of beer, bright amber liquid.
Jean bopped beside her crewmate, “You’re Handi right yeah?” she said and there was a flash of recognition in him and before he could get a word in, she was already adding, “I’m Jean.”
And that was that.