Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, June 30, 2012

On completing THE first draft . . .

Today is a BIG day! I have just a half chapter to fill in a scene, and I'll be done with the first draft of Years of Stone, and ready for my first readers. Just nine months. Originally I thought October. Maybe. Then something happened after happily finishing the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April this year.Maybe it was writing every day. Maybe it was researching 19th Century Tasmanian history (my theme for the A to Z). I made a commitment to write 200 words a day. That would have taken the draft to October. But somehow I cranked out an average of 300 words a day. Presto! The draft is done. OK, nearly done. One scene left.

But today marks the end of June. July will be a key transitional month. I'll be looking at revision, not drafting. Lots of work with the Internet Writing Workshop, bless each and every critter who lives there. And that other dreaded question looms closer: Do I self-pub or continue to seek an agent? Or consider an indie press?

What did I learn from writing this first draft? A few tips to pass along that may be useful to other writers.


---Set up a working plan. Doesn't have to be a final outline, but a sketch of where I want to go.Sort of 'who's on first'.
---Work up short descriptions -- a few words -- at the scene level to map out the whole story. Remember doesn't have to be complete. Think main characters, their goals, where they want to be, where they physically and emotionally travel. What obstacles they face.
---Write what I can. Every day.
---Start with characters talking if I don't know where the scene is going. They know.
---Draw maps and update them. This 'grounds' the story and sets physical relationships. (Note: Allen says also think logically! Start from one place and move to another. Ask what's logically first. Not that I was ever THAT logical!)
---Set a promise for a specific word level, say 100 words higher than I think I can do easily. And make it so.
---Keep a daily work journal organized by today's date that tracks word count, any unanswered questions, ideas for scenes, conflicts, events, and, especially for historical novel writing, track those dates!
---If a question arises right in the middle of a writing session, just write it down in the middle of where I am (maybe use ALL CAPS), and keep writing. Don't jump on the internet to fill it in, unless curiosity compells you to do so. You can do that later. Unless, of course, you must.
---If I can't afford Scrivener yet, use the cork board for scene cards set up by chapter and section. Here evaluate themes, characters, conflicts, locations, and seasons.
---Set goals or a working schedule (if goals are too intimidating) for major deadlines (first draft, second draft, first readers, etc).
---Take time to celebrate each accomplishment. Plan to write tomorrow!

Once this last month, really just last week, I dipped under 100 words and was depressed, lost faith, got discouraged. I had made too many commitments that bumped the writing. So, learn a lesson from this! NOTHING BUMPS THE WRITING. OK, almost nothing. Family would bump the writing. But I can reschedule other commitments.

My cork board is clean of 3x5 cards. The next story is already nibbling away.


  1. Great news, Beth. I am so impressed. Your suggestions for getting it done are spot on, too. I hope there is a bottle of champagne in your fridge.

  2. Great suggestions, Beth! Thanks for sharing them. I'm in the early research stages for a book inspired by a friendship I had with a Japanese friend after WWII. Trying to balance marketing my memoir, Twenty-Eight Snow Angels, and making time to work on the next book. Several of your suggestions will help. Toast that first draft completion, it's a huge accomplishment!

  3. So glad you found inspiration this year. Here's to hoping your muse sticks with you for the revisions. How exciting!

  4. Congratulations!
    And thanks for sharing what you learned!

  5. Terrific news! Good luck on all the revisions!

  6. Anonymous4:12 PM

    Yay! It's a great feeling! Holly

  7. Here's to seeing those revisions done this month! You are so organized. I wish I could be more like that--cards and outlines. I'm terrible when it comes to planning a story. Send me some of your skills. Please! :-)

  8. I LOVE when the first draft is finished! Congratulations and happy editing :) (Kelly from IWSG)


  9. Great job! And thanks for the tips--they are right in line with advice I would give.