I'm a big fan of pushing on with first drafts and I've made that known in the past. However, in March I discussed a problem I was having with my first draft. I needed to change something fundamental but was a little anxious about stopping and rewriting because I thought I'd lose momentum. Well, I did. In May I stopped writing that story and other things took their rightful place at the head of the queue. Little things - PhD work, rewriting another novel following advice from my agent, blogging for 2020UK. I wondered then if forcing myself to stop and go over 'old' ground with the first draft had led to me losing interest in it. In fairness, I'm not sure that was it.
You see, two weeks ago I opened up the document and started writing again. I was on a bit of an unauthorised break (I'd kidded myself I was waiting for feedback to give myself some downtime) and wanted to have a crack at one of the four first drafts I've started and abandoned in the last few years. I chose this one because it's still the one that's closest to my heart, it's still the one I've thought about most in the last few months despite the pressing obligations of others things. And you know what? I got straight back into it. I've written ten chapters, effectively doubling the length of the draft. It's now up to 36,000 words. And now I've stopped again.
There's one main reason why with several parts. I've just gone back into 'extremely busy' mode. I've got feedback from my agent so need to crack on with rewriting the other twenty three chapters of that novel. I've also got a lot of secondary reading for my PhD to get on with along the theme of disability within Victorian fiction. Then, when that reading is out of the way, I have to finish writing the disability chapter with a long and complicated analysis of at least three Victorian novels. All in all, my plate's looking a little full.
My ideas for this first draft haven't dried up as such. But they're not clear cut. I couldn't give you a breakdown of what's going to happen in the next few chapters and, unfortunately, I haven't got the time to spend working it out. I'll just have to do what I did before: get on with everything else and wait for the characters to talk to me. They get bored of waiting for me to come back to them eventually and make themselves known.
I suppose the moral of this post is that you should always try to finish a first draft in one painful gulp. But if you're a bit busy that might not be possible so don't be afraid to let it go. If it's a good story you'll want to come back to it.