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What I learned over the course of a ninth draft

Draft nine of my heart-project has taken me three months of raw, no-shortcuts, hard work. I have never reached a ninth draft before. I don’t know many other authors who have revised their work this many times, and I certainly didn’t expect to be one of them. I have never put so much of my time, energy and soul into something. I have never held onto this kind of hope and belief in a project as I have with The Young Volcanoes of Tenemere. I’ve never held onto this kind of belief in myself.

#TYVOT’s ninth draft has not been a fun one. In fact, it has probably been the most emotional to date. There have been reluctant re-writes, unsupervised re-structuring of chapters, a highly controversial change of paragraph separators (I know). I experienced more self-doubt in this draft than I have in a while. Makes sense though: I had been feeling so great about my novel for so long, it was about time for a dip in the season. I think it’s because I’m so close to finally finishing this book and my brain just hasn’t dealt with that yet. Draft eight had felt so complete, such a huge step towards that finish line. It was new; scary and exciting at the same time. I do think it triggered my anxiety a little bit. My brain was having absolutely none of it.

But three months later I ended up with a completed ninth draft, looking even more slick and polished than the last. It was a rough ride but I got there, and do you know what helped? Social media. You know, I have seen literary agents and other industry professionals criticise authors for their social media habits. ‘Tweeting isn’t the same as writing. That #ThursdayAesthetic may be lovely, but it doesn’t actually count as part of your novel!’
Um…do you think I don’t know that? Do you actually think I’m an idiot? I’m not bumbling around on Instagram for six hours a day while my book magically writes itself. I am fully aware it doesn’t work like that, thank you. I’m fucking about on the internet because it helps.
Having somewhere to complain is amazing. Having somewhere to talk to other writers and receive heartfelt encouragement and advice is wonderful. Participating in little online writing events where you can share bits of your novel that you are proud of is motivating. Do you know how much more work I got done because of Twitter? I’d probably have another three months of draft nine editing in front of me.

And that’s not even the last of it. Social media has been a place where I can start doing some early marketing. It may not be a lot at the moment in terms of numbers, but it is so damn motivating. I can’t contain my excitement whenever I see that someone has added my book on Goodreads. This month I got so many Wattpad reads, I actually got ranked for the first time (top ranking: #461 in popularity across the whole YA genre, I thank you). All this interest, all that support, it makes my fingers fly across my keyboard. It makes me want to make this story the best it can be for these people who have made me smile so much just from showing a little bit of engagement.

This draft has reminded me to believe in myself. Or rather, it has reminded me to keep on reminding myself to believe in myself. Writing is a roller coaster, I think any author will tell you that. Even if it’s your ninth ride, the drops and the loops, the twists and the turns still get you, still make you scream as your stomach churns. I have to remember to ride that ride. Embrace the exhilaration.
This draft has reminded me to embrace other things, too. Such as writing tools and the help of others. If I hadn’t done that these last few months, I wouldn’t have such a beautiful draft sitting on my hard drive right now. I also wouldn’t have a wonderful critique partner, Kit Mallory, who is in possession of this draft right now.

This draft has taught me not to make sweeping statements such as ‘oh I’ll finish this one really quickly, I don’t really have any more changes to make‘. Drafts do not go according to plan. Never assume. But still, if you’ll allow me one final sweeping statement.

We’re nearly there, folks.
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