The Magic of Finishing the First Step

bloomI’m sorry I haven’t been around much the last couple of weeks. I decided to put the blog and the newsletter (have you subscribed to my newsletter yet? Hmmmm?) on hold for a little while so I could work on my current manuscript with more focused intensity. Then, last week, I had a few days off from my day job and was able to work on it with an even more focused, focused intensity.

It was awesome. I’ve never really written much more than 5,000 words in a day. Last week. when I was off, I had three days in a row between 7,000-8,000 words – or over 22,000 words in three days (basically, a short novella). That’s not a lot for some people, but it sure is a lot for me. Better, it seemed to kick things up a notch, because even after I went back to work, I was able to keep writing at a higher level.

And now?

I hurt. My wrists are numb. The tendinitis in my forefinger and thumb is throbbing. My shoulders ache. My neck is stiff. And my butt…well,let’s not talk about my butt, except to say that I HAVE to save for a standing desk.

But the first draft of “Welcome to Hardy Falls, Book 2” is finished.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not good. It’s not close to being good. Heck, it’s not even readable. I’m not sure that I can read it, and I know what’s supposed to happen. It’s at least 30,000 words too long, and will require a LOT of editing.

But I typed the words “The End”.

And it was finished.

Why was I so concerned with focused intensity, anyway? Why was I racing to the finish line like I was on fire? Why did I hurt my body, ignore my cats, friends, and family, let my house fall into decay, and basically chain myself to my desk?

Because finishing was important.

See, I had been working on the manuscript for so long, been down in the weeds for so long, that it didn’t even feel like a book anymore. It felt like total crap.  Like I was just kidding myself and being an idiot. Like I’m not good, I’ll never be any good, I’m a complete impostor. Why was I fooling myself thinking I could do this again? I should just scrap the whole thing. I really, Really, REALLY wanted to scrap the whole thing. What the heck was the point, anyway?

I could only think of one answer.

The point was to finish. The point was to complete the first step.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that the book didn’t have to be good right now. It didn’t matter if wasn’t readable at this point. I’ll be going over it at least two more times, so I’ll be able to fix things. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t matter if the words did not flow like wine from my fingers to the keyboard. It didn’t matter if it was incomplete. It didn’t matter if it repeated itself. It didn’t matter that I know for a fact people won’t like all of it, even after it’s done and polished. It didn’t matter that, even worse than being disliked, most people will be indifferent. At this point, the book didn’t have to have the right facts, or the right grammar, or the right continuity.

The only thing that mattered right now was getting the first draft finished. There needed to be words from beginning to end, and those words didn’t have to be perfect. They just had to be written.

So I sprinted for the finish line like the devil himself was chasing me.

Maybe he was.

It would have been so, so easy to just give up. To turn away. To call myself an idiot and move on to the next distraction. To sink into social media or Netflix. To…stop.

Yes, I sprinted. I sprinted as if my life depended on it. I sprinted because I was terrified that I would stop. I was terrified I would let the distractions get me. I was terrified I would let my absolutely sincere doubts stop me. My lack of confidence. My lack of skill.  My lack of progress.

I sprinted, and I finally finished (even though at the end I felt like I was wringing drops of water out of a wet bath towel).

I’m happy that the first draft is done.  But I have to remind myself that this is only the first step. There are a lot of challenges ahead, and a heck of a more work to do. The second draft will be difficult because I’ll have to cut so many words to get to the length I want. And everything takes longer than I think it will, so I’ll get impatient with myself. I’m scared that I’ll read the first draft and it will suck so badly that I’ll be devastated. There’s the danger that I’ll let my fears stop me, so I’m afraid of my fear and how I’ll respond to it.

But a wise woman (Nora Roberts) once said that you can’t edit something that’s not there. And now that the first draft is finished, there’s something there to edit and polish and eventually publish.

And that, my friends, is the magic of finishing the first step. Because taking the first step means you can now take the second.

By the way, just as an aside, what makes me even happier is that today I wrote the first 7,000 words for the first draft of the next story. Another step in the right direction.







  1. Sue Truscott Freese says

    Well done, you!!! One of my favorite sayings goes, “It is what it is.” Another is, “Onward and upward.”
    That seems to fit your experience, right?
    I’m proud of you.

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