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#WriterLife Update: I’m Exhausted

Years. Actual years of editing. So many drafts I’ve forgotten to celebrate when I finish one. But this week something special happened. This week I finished draft eight of The Young Volcanoes of Tenemere. And I’m not going to do what I usually do, that is, take a couple days off then get cracking with the next draft. This time, I’m going to take the time to be proud of myself, because it draft eight has turned out to be quite a special one.
Of my eight drafts, three have been major. What do I mean by major? I mean I’ve basically re-written the entire thing. If I opened up my first draft, the one I started in November 2014 after two years of part-time planning, I don’t know if I would recognise it. I’ve put a lot of work into this novel, only the first in a whole series I am still building. But as slow, and painful, and hard and sometimes full-on depressing as it has been, it’s also been pretty damn great. I’ve developed this craft of mine so much over the years. Writing this novel has taught me more about the skill and how I personally like to use it than any of my other novels have. And I think that’s because this is my heart-project. This is a story I feel so strongly about; the one I truly believe is my best work. The first I believe is publishable.

The idea that would grow to become The Young Volcanoes of Tenemere first came to me over Christmas of 2012. I was still working on another project at the time: a little sci-fi/fantasy called The Piccadilly Effect that I ended up abandoning. But I saved the best parts of it and transferred them over to my heart-project. I didn’t start properly writing TYVOT until November 2014. From conception until now, it has been just over five years. Two years of part-time planning, and just over three years of writing. And of course, further planning.It has been a long time. But this week, I finished draft eight. And you know what draft eight it? It’s the penultimate draft before I send off to my editor. No it’s not the exciting final draft, not even the one I’m sending to my editor, but it’s very special. Because it’s the first full draft that properly reflects the book it is going to end up becoming.
Draft eight hasn’t been a major draft, but it hasn’t been minor either. It was a middle draft if you will. Some chapters were perfect, only needed a few spelling corrections. Others I wrote entirely from scratch. But now, looking back, I see the shape now. This is no longer a skeleton manuscript. I have sculpted away for more than three years, and this story is completely fleshed out. It’s not final, but it is very, very close to it. Draft nine, if all goes to plan, will be the most minor of all my drafts. Honestly, it’ll be more like a proof. And I am so excited.

I’ve been editing for so long, I’ve often worried I’d never be able to stop. Like most writers I’m a complete poncy perfectionist, and sometimes I’ve sank so deep into revision hell it has felt easier to just swim down. I have feared this would never be done, that it would never be good enough, that the finished product would never see the light. But draft eight has finally given me hope. I can see it clearly now: it’s nearly finished. And I am so proud.

It’s hard sometimes to remember to celebrate our milestones. It can be especially hard when the people in our lives aren’t writer or readers, and don’t quite understand the work we put in (‘what exactly is a draft, Tess?’)
But today I’m celebrating and I want you to, too. Whatever draft you’re on, whether you’re near the end or you’re deep into the quicksand of revision, take my virtual high-five of congrats. You have worked so hard, and I encourage you to continue. Just take a little dance break first and remind yourself how great you are.


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