I am currently 3 days from the end of the most intense fortnight of writing that I have had in a very long time. I’ve had a May GibbsFellowship this year, which has meant four weeks in a small, quiet apartment in Brisbane, far away from work, telephone, cooking meals and other daily distractions. For several reasons, I chose to take my four weeks in two lots, and the first fortnight included writing workshops in schools.
While I’ve done a lot of creative first draft writing (in both fortnights), this time I also had a major revision on a YA novel to do. Eight pages of detailed notes from a very good editor to contend with first (I think every writer knows that feeling of panic when you see notes like these and think, I can’t do all that!). Then it was head down, and total focus. Most days I have done at least four hours and sometimes six or more. There is no way I could have achieved this level of intense work and concentration at home.
A major character I added into the second half of the novel in the last draft? Gone again. Several large plot holes? Filled and expanded. Background world building and technology? Expanded and developed more deeply. Character arc? Carefully finessed. Then it was another pass of the manuscript for more polishing. Hour after hour after hour, right inside the world and the story and the characters I had created. I went out for walks to help my aching back and stiff neck (taking my main character with me) and coffee (taking a notebook to make more notes and write down new ideas and thoughts).
Now I’m done, for this draft at least. I’m sure there will be more redrafting to come. But I feel a bit lost, a bit … adrift. I’m looking forward to getting back to my new project, but first I have to reshuffle the headspace, tidy up, put away that world for now. It can be hard to change gears, from picky revision to free-wheeling first draft.
But I have several good ways to help that along. I can read a great novel in a different genre. I can write some poems or do some free writing. Or I can go and see a thought-provoking movie. I’ll miss my May Gibbs time! When I go home, I want to really try to maintain that sense of focus and keep the distractions away. Right now, I might just celebrate a completed new draft.