Thursday, April 14, 2016

First Drafts: The Point of No Return

This past Friday, I finished the first draft of All Heart, the sequel to my first novel, Stay the Distance. It is all well and good as far as first drafts go--meaning that it must be ripped to shreds and reconstructed out of my blood, sweat and tears in the next thirty days in order to produce the second draft, which I will let actual people lay eyes upon.

That said, I don't like to rip into a first draft right away. I just spent two months producing this draft--the shortest amount of time it has ever taken me to really sit and write down 81,500 semi-coherent words. By the point I'm at 81,499 words, I'm basically living inside the story. I am story. So when I write that last word, I usually sit there and stare at it for a good while, wondering what the heck just happened. Is this done? Did that happen? And then I feel lost for the next day, wondering what world I'm living in without that constant story going in my head.

Needless to say, story and I have to have some time apart. A week, at the very least, for me to regain my sense of self and start functioning like a normal adult again. (Are writers normal adults? I sometimes wonder...)

Luckily for me, this time was a little easier. I finished the draft on Friday and on Saturday I packed up what felt like my entire life and drove to Columbus for Equine Affaire. To me, this was a surreal experience. Sitting down and watching people peruse my books in real time, watching their initial reactions and then (occasionally) gleefully buying one (and sometimes both) before scurrying back over for my signature was probably one of the best things I've ever experienced. As a person. Honestly. I got to live four hours of that parade of people, and it was a great way to break things up for me--going from writing that last sentence of All Heart to watching my new readers flip through those books wrenched me out of my thoughts and plopped me back down into the real world. However surreal it seemed at the time. It was good for me. It was good for my writing. Because when I went back home, I didn't open up All Heart.

No. Oh, no no no. I at least stayed true to my word. I was taking a week-long break from All Heart. We needed some time apart to think. But that didn't mean I couldn't start thinking of something else--which, I admit, I'd already started to do. Now, in this downtime, was the perfect moment to strike out on my new adventure. I copy/pasted a bunch of plot points I'd obsessively strung together in my free time into a new file, and chapter-by-chapter outlined a new book. That by itself would be one thing, but then I went a step further and I started to write it. 8,000 words and three days later, I have a new first draft on my hands.

So, for those of us who are counting, two first drafts. Two baby stories that I am determined to nurture to adulthood this year. They are wildly different--so different that I'm not sure yet if I'll be able to wrench myself out of one to return to another when it's needed, but I'm going to have to try because there's no going back now.

In the meantime, who else has juggled this madness? I know you're out there. Tell me your multiple story stories!
Mara Dabrishus is an author and librarian at a small college in Northeast Ohio. Horse racing is her first great love, but for the past several years she's ridden dressage, learning how to spiral in, half halt, and perform the perfect figure eight. Her second novel (gasp!), Finding Daylight, was released in January 2016. For more information, please visit

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