My first novel, written in a rush in just over a month. There was pride, there was elation, there was computer screen eye fatigue…now I had to read the thing.
One of the many lessons from On Writing was to shelter away your first draft and show no one the work in progress. It is just too rough, and you are already filled with enough self-doubt that you don’t need anyone else reinforcing that feeling. You just need to lock yourself away until it is all done.
When I say no one had read the book, I mean even I hadn’t read it. Part of the NaNoWriMo challenge is to turn off your internal editor. I was not entirely successful as my fingers hovered over the keys too long before striking them.
But I did resist going back and messing with what was already down on paper. When I opened the Word file each morning, I would go back a couple of paragraphs to see where I left off, but no farther. Part of it was the time crunch and not having time to rewrite anything. Another was I was worried that I would read it and see how horrible it was and get discouraged. But now it was done and it was time for the first read.
On the advice of many, I intended to set the book aside for a while. Wait for at least a month to distance myself, maybe start reading it in the new year. But I didn’t wait all that long. I was home for Christmas, and had some time on my hands. I reasoned that it had been almost two months since I wrote the first chapter, but it was just an excuse. I wanted to read the damn thing.
I went to Fed Ex/Kinkos and printed it out. Bought a shiny new binder and a fresh highlighting pen. I went to a coffee shop, bought a strong cup of coffee and dug in.
And then I stopped.
I started making corrections and pausing over paragraphs all over again. I was getting too bogged down, obsessing over phrases and punctuation. The highlighter was messing it up and I wasn’t reading the story. I wanted to read it once through without critiquing it (or at least taking notes) to see if it held together.
I ended up setting the notebook aside. I found a program online that would convert my Word file to a mobile format, and downloaded the book to my Kindle. There are ways to make notes on the Kindle, but it is more cumbersome than with pen and paper. Reading it as an eBook made it easier to just read. No real notes. Some judgment.
Parts of it were painful, but there were certain points or turns of phrases that brought a smile to my face. It needed a lot of work, but I enjoyed reading it for the first time. Now it was time to edit the thing .