I Finished My Novel! And I Started Revising It!

I did it. I wrote a novel! I have no idea if it’s any good or if it will ever be published, but it feels pretty great to be able to say that I wrote a book. These are some of my thoughts on the fact that I finished the first draft of my novel and how my first go at revisions has been progressing so far.

When I started writing my novel, I had the goal to make it 75,000 words long, which is roughly 300 pages in trade paperback page size. But even though I had this “goal,” I was just writing the story that was coming out of my head and hoping it would end up being that long. Did it? Not quite. The first draft clocked in around 67,000 words, which was close enough for me to be pleased with it. Not to mention that I have the feeling that my next draft is going to be longer because this was my first attempt at long fiction (more on this in a little bit).

At the beginning, I had the first few chapters of the book planned out in my head, as well as a very rough outline for the entire book. As I was working through those first few chapters I was a little nervous that I would reach a point where I wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen next. But to my amazement, that never happened! I never finished writing a chapter with no idea where the next chapter was going to go. And let me say, this was pretty thrilling and it definitely gave me confidence as I continued to write the book. I’m not sure why this happened—maybe it was because I really liked my characters, or maybe it was because I knew where they were going to end up, but it was a pretty surreal writing experience. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have been able to finish it if I had ever finished writing a chapter without knowing what the next chapter would be; I’m not sure where I would have found the inspiration.

The writing did start to get a little harder as I neared the end. I could see the finish line and I wanted to get there. This first draft ended up taking me almost 7 months to complete, so once the finish line was in sight I started to feel conflicted. I knew I needed to do the ending justice, but I also wanted to get to it as fast as I could. Will the last couple chapters of my book need a lot of revisions? Probably, but that’s okay. The story is on the page. If anything, I knew that at the very least I had the skeleton of what would be my completed novel.

This last thought has been reinforced as I’ve started rereading my work. I followed the advice I had read and put it away for about a month before I printed myself a copy and sat down with a red pen. By far, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is something I’m sure first-time novelists (hopefully) deal with a lot—I know my characters and their motivations, but that didn’t always make it onto the page. I’ve already come across quite a few places where I feel like I need to provide my reader with more of that, to ground the actions and decisions of my characters in believable context. There are also the issues of plot points that I changed halfway through the book, so some of the stuff I wrote at the beginning doesn’t track at all with what happens at the end. But I knew that was going to happen. But also, to my delight, there have been a few passages—a creative metaphor, a super detailed description—that have brought a proud smile to my face.

I have three beta readers reading my first draft, plus me. My goal is to make notes for myself as I read, but not try to rewrite anything quite yet. Then once I’ve finished, hopefully I’ll have notes from my readers and I can go back to the beginning and write my second draft with everyone’s notes and comments in front of me. I still don’t know if it’s any good, or if it will ever be published, but I’m still enjoying the ride and I’m not sick of reading about my characters and their romance yet. So at this point, I’m excited to keep working on it and see how my next draft turns out!

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