The Unexpected Emotions On Completing the Shitty First Draft

Finish of the Shitty First Draft…

I’ve completed the shitty first draft of my latest novel with a day to spare. The revised goal was to complete it by the end of the year, and it has been a struggle as I’ve spent a large chunk of the last few months looking after my 92-year-old Dad and my brother who has just had a major operation. I was then laid low with labyrinthitis, which sounds like it ought to by a sequel to a film by Guillermo Del Toro, but is an infection of the inner ear, so it was sit up and throw up for a number of weeks. I’m very grateful to the help of my friends and the writing retreat run by Global Wordsmiths to get me to the finish line.

After dancing around the lounge in celebration, I returned to the computer, was faced with an empty page, and felt … bereft. I’ve got a million things to do, none of which appeals, and I know I’ll motivate myself to do at least some of them later on, but I was surprised by the strength of the emotion. It’s not as if I don’t know I’ll need to rewrite the novel a few times before it is fit for public consumption, because I do, but I expected to feel jubilation and relief and a sense of achievement, not an aching sense of loss. So, after a cup of tea and a little reflection I reckoned it was the loss of sense of purpose. Not the obligations and duties which seem to increase exponentially because those are always there with their heavy reminders, but the sense of doing something that fills my thoughts and warms my soul.

Does anyone else have this sense of deflation after finishing something?

Hello, Reader World!

I think I got into reading as it was something in which I could beat my brother. He was severely dyslexic, and they didn’t get support in those days. He was three years older than me, brilliant at cricket and everything else, and I idolised him. But reading was my thing.

As a child, I lived in Zambia and school finished at 1:30 p.m. In the afternoons, we were free. The dust tickled our noses, and we were serenaded by cicadas. It was so hot we would intersperse splashes in a friend’s pool with bouts of reading to dry off. We read anything and everything we could get hold of, from the Times of Zambia to classic children’s books, and we swapped with each other. We even picked up a copy of The Thoughts of Chairman Mao.

Television schedules were indicative rather than actual, so I’d read and tell stories to my brother’s Action Man and Eeyore while we waited for the one children’s programme to appear. I started to write the stories down. If I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say, “a writer.”

At eleven I fell in love…with Shakespeare. On a trip back to London we went to a magical outdoor Shakespeare performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park, and I was hooked. From then on I started to write poetry and study performance. 

Established back in the UK, I was lucky enough to attend the same girls grammar school as Carol Ann Duffy (although some years later!), and was taught by the same English department and by the wonderful Mr Walker who inspired and encouraged her so much.

I continued to write poetry but moved into economics and accountancy for a full career’s worth of numbers and report writing, which slowly stifled my creativity. In my very limited spare time, I tried to write a novel but struggled with the plot and having enough headspace and energy to explore and play.

I was determined to retire from full time employment as soon as I’d paid off my mortgage, and I saw an advertisement for Global Wordsmith’s course in Spain—to begin the day after my retirement date. It was fate.

The course was much more than I hoped, Robyn and Brey being the perfect balance of ultimate professionals and welcoming hosts. I soon realised how much I didn’t know, and that writing a novel is not like a glorified work report or indeed an extended poem. Within a day, the plot I’d been billowing around with for months formed into a parabolic arch locked with a keystone of midpoint crisis. 

I shall always be grateful for their wisdom and encouragement. So when I was approached to see if I would submit a short story for the upcoming anthology, LesFic Eclectic, I leapt at the chance, and I feel very honoured that it was accepted.

In the meantime, I’m working on my novel, Cider, which is a great excuse to go around and sample different ciders in the name of research. For details about my novels, please see my website tab, Scribbling. So I hope you enjoy my short story, and I look forward to years of creativity and connection with you all. I’ve got a lot to catch up on…