Back on May 26 I finished writing the first draft of a new story. This was something of a milestone for me. I’ve written about my five-year bout with writer’s block when it comes to fiction-writing. This new story represents the first story draft that I have completed since 2015–even before my soon-to-be six-year old daughter was born!
On May 12, I pulled a blank composition book from the shelf, and scribble a short outline of my idea for the story. On May 13 (Friday the 13th), I wrote the first scene. Each morning over the next 12 days (with the exception of May 15, when the day got away from me) I wrote, adding more scenes. When I finished writing, I would review what I wrote, making notes in red ink in the margins of the pages. I wrote in cursive, using my trusty Pilot G-2 0.7 pens, alternating between black ink one day and blue the next.
The story filled 35 pages in my composition book, and while I didn’t worry about word count day-to-day, I estimate the first draft at around 9,000 words, which is somewhat longer than I had intended. My job in the next draft, therefore, is to see what I can cut out.
I can’t say for certain, but this may be the first story in which I handwrote the entire first draft since a story that I wrote in Mrs. Taft’s 3rd grade class for a social studies assignment. It was the spring of 1981, we were studying the Soviet Union in our social studies book, and my story was about two friends who took a walking tour of Moscow. From an early age I was never a believer in “write what you know.” It was written in an incredibly neat, loopy cursive that I incapable of reproducing today. That original manuscript–written on tan newsprint paper with those dotted lines to help with your penmanship–has been lost, but I have other papers from that time, and that is how I know my handwriting was once legible.
I think my newish morning routine played a big part in helping me get this story written. I rise just before the sun, when the sky is lightening. I’m out for a morning walk before sunrise (out the door at 5:40am this morning) and I’m back at 6:25am. I sit down to write for the next 30-60 minutes, when the house is still quiet. I avoid the computer, the keyboard, and just scribble in my composition book where I left off, using whatever color ink I didn’t use yesterday, and noting the date in the margin where I started the day’s writing.
Tomorrow morning, I will sit down with my composition book and begin reading what I wrote in the first draft of the story. I will have a red pen in hand. I’ll clarify those words that are too hard to read in my scribbled cursive. I’ll add reference numbers in the margins to lengthier comments and notes I’ll make on subsequent pages. And when I’ve gone through the entire story, I’ll begin writing the second draft, notes in hand.
I plan on keeping this pleasant pace that I’ve found, even in the editing. Thirty to sixty minutes tomorrow morning, see how far I get, and then take a break until the next morning.
It feels good to be writing fiction again.
Written on May 26, 2022.
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Congratulations, it must a very sweet feeling making this progress. You have intriguing thoughts and an enjoyable writing style, and I’m looking forward whatever you share in the future. Perserva!
Congratulations, Jamie. There’s no better feeling than completing a piece of writing, especially after a hiatus. No matter how much editing or rewriting required, at least you don’t have to face the blank page!