When I was about 11 or 12 years old, someone told me they believed I'd one day be a writer. I believed it too. That fact that the person who told me this went on to be a successful and award-nominated novelist and screen-writer themselves only reinforced my confidence that one day I too would be a published novelist.
Gradually, though, it dawned on me, that I'd have to actually write a book to make that happen.
And then followed years and years of not writing a book and hating myself for it, of waking up every January 1st and thinking: 'Here I go again, not writing my book for another year'.
I did eventually start writing, of course, but it was short fiction. The shorter the better. I had some success and thought, okay, this is what I'm good at, this is okay, I'm still a writer. I told anyone who would listen (or asked) that I was pretty sure I'd never write a novel, because it just wasn't where my talents lay.
And then I had an idea for a book. Still I procrastinated, but the idea wouldn't go away.
Last April, my husband bought me a new laptop and gave me a deadline: 20,000 words by the end of the summer, or the laptop went to my teenage daughter. Ah, he knows me so well. I exceeded his target a month early and I was on my way. Writing a book.
Some ten months after starting, I've nearly finished the first draft of my novel. I should be cock-a-hoop, right? Punching the air, typing THE END in the biggest, boldest, most italic-y font I can find.
But I'm not. And that's okay.
The thing is, I have a lot of words, but they don't feel like a book yet.
I have a sort-of story, my protagonist goes on a journey, but I know it needs more narrative drive.
I've discovered what my book is about in the process of writing it, but I know I need to draw out the themes, strengthen them, weave them through the fabric of my book so it's less like crochet and more like a tightly-woven damask that shows different colours and patterns depending on how you turn it in the light.
I have characters, quite a few of them. Most of them are engaging and interesting. Almost all of them are more engaging and interesting than my protagonist. I need to make her more than just a sounding board, less reactive and more proactive in her own life. I need to find out what is unique about her AND what makes her like everyone else.
I have important scenes that are woefully underwritten and less important scenes that go on and on and on. I need to look at the balance of my book, the rhythm, the pace.
I need to do all these things, and more, before the big heap of words I've put together resembles anything like a book. And I'm itching to get on with it. Getting to the end of the first draft is a notable achievement, but it feels more like a mid-point than anything else. Hence the lack of air-punching.
My aim is to have a solid second draft done by the summer. If you hear whooping across the internet sometime in late June or early July, it'll probably be me, typing THE END.
And then, following feedback, I'll get cracking with the third draft. And maybe, just maybe, by then I'll have written a book.