Drafting

Saturday afternoon, as the Pacific Northwest bid an unusually warm and clear adieu to spring, I completed the first draft of my third novel, Tui. No drum roll accompanied my typing of The End. No one witnessed the tears. I hadn’t made any particular plan to finish on that day, but by Friday I knew I was close. Saturday I knew I was done.

 

It’s a hollow release, this finishing of a novel. It comes with a particular wistfulness and melancholy for which there is no word. No matter how many months of revisions lay ahead, you will never experience these characters and their journeys in quite the same way again. If you’re a pantser, like me, most of what happened on the page happened as you were writing. Experiencing the story’s events and your characters’ reactions and growth in real time is magical.

 

I’m not sure if I’ve told the story I set out to tell. I wrote the first half in fits and starts—six weeks in November and December, two weeks in February. Finally, by early April, after I’d submitted the final copy-edits of In Another Life to my publisher and the last revision of The Crows of Beara to my agent, I cleared out the worst of my to-do list to focus on Tui. As soon as I returned, new characters entered the scene and a certain light filtered into a dark narrative. I felt freer to play with styles and structure.

 

Tui is the most personal of my novels, inspired not only by my deep feelings for a place (in this case, New Zealand), but for a little girl I once knew, with whom I’d shared peanut butter and jam sandwiches, jam I’d made from the peaches that fell from her tree into my yard. I have no idea what happened to that child. She disappeared one day. I disappeared too, not long after. Hers was a physical disappearance, mine a descent into a dark abyss. This novel became a way to tell a little girl’s story. And maybe bits and pieces of my own.

 

My second novel, The Crows of Beara, is on submission, a process that takes months, perhaps years. Yesterday, in my angst and restlessness, I rewrote the beginning of that novel. I revised the first forty pages and fired them off to my agent. If we need to go into a next round of submissions to publishers, this is the version I’d like to use. Because I think I learned something about my central protagonist, Annie, that I didn’t know until I’d stepped into the heads and hearts of characters from a completely different story.

 

Or perhaps I rewrote those opening pages because finishing a novel is so bewildering.

 

What happens to Tui now? Nothing in the short-term. The novel will sit for weeks or months, resting, settling down. Sorting itself out. Revisions can be done only with a mind that sees the story from a fresh, well-rested perspective. I need to forget what my intention was when I started writing and work with what actually happened over those weeks and months as the story unfolded. Sometime in the fall, I’ll open the manuscript again and see where it leads me.

 

Besides, I have this idea for a new novel and I’m itching to get started on it . . .

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Pacific Coast, Canterbury, New Zealand

18 thoughts on “Drafting

  1. I’m looking forward to Tui ( I too had a friend named Tui when I lived in NZ). Did you live on the South Island? I hope you will blog about your experiences – I would love to read about it and it would be great publicity for the coming book.

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  2. Congratulations, again, on finishing #3, Julie. Lovely post. I’m so looking forward to ‘In Another Life’ and now ‘Tui’ as well. You’re incredibly patient about the process and time it takes to bring a novel to life…after you’ve brought it into the world. I’m not as patient. I want to read it now! 😉 But I will wait. And enjoy your posts here and elsewhere. So lovely ‘meeting’ you in WFWA.

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  3. I just watched Top of the Lake this weekend too. It’s a tough series to watch.

    Congrats on reacing The End Julie and for already forming the idea for your next work, you’re really on a roll! Bonne Continuation. 🙂

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  4. Congratulations Julie. Thanks for sharing your writing process, I am always helped and inspired when I read what writers go thru to get their stories down. I’ve never finished a novel but imagine missing the characters I’ve created once they are put away for awhile. Good luck on starting your next!

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  5. Congrats on reaching “The End” on Tui… (One of my favourite birds btw. We have a family of them who live in our garden in winter here.)
    Good luck too on your submission. 🙂
    Hope you are well Julie. I always enjoy reading your posts.
    Hugs, Kim 🙂

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      1. Kim, I’ve been wondering about you- it’s absolutely made my day to see you, to “hear” your sweet voice. Thank you so much in sharing my excitement and being such an amazing source of support and encouragement. I’m thrilled you’re here!

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      2. Julie,

        You know I love reading your posts. They are like a cool drink of water on a hot day. Refreshing to the inspiration, cooling to the perspiration.
        I really am so inspired by your writing journey. I am truly thrilled for your success.
        Coming up for air again online and of course I had to catch up on “Chalk the Sun”.

        Sending this with big hugs 🙂
        x

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