How I Write My First Draft of a Novel in 3 Months

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I have often been asked many questions regarding my writing. How long does it take you to write a book? Where do you get your ideas from? Is it hard for you to write? Do you enjoy writing? Do you take your time? So in this post, I will share with you how I get my full draft done. This is my way and how I get things done. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to finishing your first draft. It’s all about getting it done.

Starting Point

Having a new idea for a book can be exciting. For me, I’m always excited when I have new ideas, and I often tend to have more than one idea at the same time. It is impossible for me to have just one idea alone. I could look at an apple and an idea/inspiration could just come to me without me having to do anything. With all these ideas, I have a small brown book where I carry with me to keep my ideas in. It doesn’t matter how I write it down. It could be as brief as writing ‘looking at apple’ or ‘seeing apple dance’. Others might not understand what I’ve written, but it’s my own way of understanding it.

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Taking the Pick

With all the flying ideas in my head, I choose one that I can see myself writing a story about. There are times when I can combine two, or more, different ideas into one.  As a writer, I like my stories to be like movies. I am a huge movie fan, and I like my stories to be seen as something that could be played into movies. Don’t get me confused for being a screenwriter. I love writing books, and when readers read my works, I want them to be able to picture what is going on in their head, like the inside of their heads are playing a movie. If you know me as a writer since from the beginning, you would know where my tagline comes from.

“Every story plays a movie in the head.”

 

Now Write and Brave It

Once I’ve picked my idea, or ideas, I then think about the ending. I always think about the ending and have an idea as to how my story would end. This way, it helps me with the rest of the storyline. I don’t like to waste too much time thinking about what to write. I start writing the storyline in brief points for each chapter until more than halfway through the story. It doesn’t matter if I do not know what would happen in one chapter. I think hard and keep the ending in mind. It’s easy said than done, but by not thinking too much, I can allow my mind and the pen and paper to do the work. I also don’t just like to write in any notebooks. I like to write in good quality, fancy ones. I just like the feeling of it. But no matter how good quality or fancy the notebooks are, the writing itself is always messy, quick and over the place. This is what I call good brainstorming. After writing down the storyline points, I start to write the actual story entirely. I have also often been asked if writing the entire story via pen and paper would take up a lot of my time. The answer is no. I tend to write fast, and writing down helps to make my story grow. If I were to type it up on my laptop/computer straight away, my mind would freeze. It would not work. At this point when I’m writing the entire story, I don’t worry about the grammar or making it perfect. In fact, my writing at this point is over the place, and if someone were to read it, they wouldn’t understand what was going on. Only I could understand my own mess. The most important thing is to write the story. After drafting every chapter or two, I type what I’ve written onto my laptop/computer. This might seem like a lot of hassle, but it’s not. I can work faster this way than working straight from my laptop/computer. It doesn’t take me long to work on a chapter. Of course, sometimes I get writer’s block or I’m stuck as maybe the storyline for a chapter is not working out. That’s what the storyline brief points are for. I can change things around, and if need be, re-write a chapter, so long as I have the points to keep me on track. Once I’ve written close to halfway through the storyline, I finish with the rest of the brief points for the rest of the chapters until the end. In my opinion, the overall timescale should take no longer than three (or maybe four) months. This is because during this period, the mind is fresh with the storyline and ideas. But I feel that the longer I work on it, the less I will feel connected to the story, and therefore losing the touch with the storyline. A story will not work if there’s no passion towards it. And if there’s no passion, then the readers won’t be able to connect with the story.

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You can never expect to see a nicely written draft from me. I believe that the messier the draft, a better written story will come out of it, because it shows that the ideas are pouring out of the head. It’s all about getting the ideas down than having neat handwriting at this point.

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Show Time

Now it’s time to polish the draft from its mess and make it as perfect as possible. Yes, it’s time to proofread and edit. This process should not be rushed, but of course, it shouldn’t take too long either. I have three ways for this process. Firstly, read the entire story and edit out what is not needed or doesn’t make sense. Here is where I fix the mess and make it work. Don’t be afraid to edit out words/sentences. My advice is that it’s always better to have a well written story than to have it judged by its quantity. Secondly, read the entire story again, except that this time, you pay attention to the grammar. And thirdly, read the entire story once again and see how you feel with everything polished. You can, of course, re-read the entire story several times more until you are happy with it. For me, I do not take more than a month for this process, or else, I will keep finding irrelevant mistakes to edit. It does happen.

Off to the Fairy Godmother

Once I’m happy, or satisfied, with the polished draft, it’s time to send it off to my fairy godmother, also known as my editor, or fairy god-editor. Every author, or writer who wishes to publish a book, should have their own fairy god-editor who will add their magical touch to the draft to make it a finished product. Believe me, any great authors out there have their very own fairy god-editors, because when it comes down to it, we can never see our own mistakes. That’s when the fairy god-editors comes in and give the draft some magic. I could have the option to just send my fairy god-editor my unpolished draft, but then it wouldn’t seem like it would be my writing when it comes to the finished product. Having a fairy god-editor look through my works will enable me to learn from my mistakes and become a better writer.

Wellbeing 

For me, it’s always important to stay healthy and have a clear head when writing, especially that I tend to work till late nights and have little sleep. If I’m distracted or in a foul mood, it would be impossible to write. And when I’m writing, I always make sure to have some food and coffee with me wherever I work. Never go hungry writing. I always make my writing space a comfortable and happy one as it relaxes my head. I like to work in bed while listening to nineties hip pop music during the drafting period or early stages of a book. I can’t work in a quiet environment or else my mind would wonder. Also, the distractions at this stage serves as an inspiration. And when it comes to the ‘serious’ polishing stage, I work at my office desk with no distractions. It is also a good idea to do some exercise. Nothing too extreme if you’re not a working out person. Trust me, it’s another way to relax the body and mind. For me, I like to run or fast walk for forty minutes to an hour five times a week. Lastly, it helps to have a long shower or bath. I have a remedy where I use my favourite organic shower gel and scrub three times a week where it relaxes me and puts my mind in a happy place.

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Remember, there is no right or wrong when it comes to the stages of writing. This is my way. Happy writing!

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My American Bucket List Trip (Part 1)

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Recently, I came upon a post by a childhood friend from high school which caught my attention. The post was about growing old and creating a bucket list. It was inspiring to see the many things she wanted to do before she was forty years old. It wasn’t until last year (2018) when another one of my childhood friends, *Grayson, from America came to visit me in London that our long spirited conversations got me thinking about creating my own bucket list. You see, Grayson and I go way back. We met at a young age at the beginning of our teenage years. Our mothers were good friends, and she was right with me by my mother’s dying bed. She was like a second mother to me. Ever since then, I somehow see my mother in Grayson and his mother, as strange as that may sound. So when he visited me and we both reminisced about our childhood days in Bangkok, I somehow thought about my life and how I wanted to live it. That was when I thought about life in general. There were many things I wanted to do, especially one that is at the very top of the list, and that is a road trip in America. However, this road trip is different than the one you may have in mind. It will be a nineties, Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon, the movie Road Trip, American Pie kind of road trip starting from San Jose, California all the way to New York City. Grayson and his wife will be joining me on this trip. They had even come up with a rough plan on the routes we would take and the states we would cross. I didn’t want to follow the famous Route 66. So with the help of Grayson and his wife, I am going to create my own route. My bucket list is going to involve stopping at the states we have to cross and doing something memorable. I have to be adventurous. For example, if we stop at Texas, I would have to ride the mechanical bull. Every day, I will document my trip on this blog and take many pictures along the way. And I will have a souvenir box filled with memorable souvenirs from each state. How fun is that? This road trip will also mean a lot to me as my father had wanted to take me on a trip to New York before he was to retire. Sadly, he passed away when I was eighteen before he could retire. My parents loved America, and they have been traveling there since before I was born. So in honour of them, I will be bringing a special framed family picture along with me. It would be like they are with me on the trip. It is what they would have wanted. The framed picture is almost twenty years old, and my mother put the pictures inside it herself. It hasn’t been opened or rearranged. Her touch still remains within the frame.

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This road trip will not be my first. When I was really young, we had a road trip during the winter season from San Francisco to Florida and then Washington DC. From there, the road trip finished, and we flew to New York for the rest of the vacation. For my road trip, I want to travel during the spring or summer.

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Starting from today, I will keep my bucket list open, meaning I will keep adding the things I want to do to the list and the states I wish to cross. Rather than have a confirmed list, I am going to list down the things I hope to accomplish. And those of you who have any ideas as to what I can do, please share. I do not know the exact states I will be crossing, but any ideas beforehand would be thought of and appreciated. The trip will not be anytime soon, but it will definitely happen. Three years tops at this moment.

1) Meet Mr R.L. Stine (and also try to write as many books as him in life)

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I grew up reading books by Mr R.L. Stine, and I particularly fell in love with the Fear Street series. Mr Stine isn’t just a favourite author of mine. His books means a lot to me. And even though I am fan of other authors, Mr Stine is different as I grew up feeling a connection to his works. Even my mother encouraged me to read his books. Sadly later in my teens, I had to give away my many collections. But that still didn’t stop me from getting inspired by his works. It wasn’t until recently that I started retrieving his original Fear Street series on Ebay. It is hard, as not all of the titles are available on sale. Some I had to pay hefty price for it, but it was worth it. I mean, it’s Mr Stine we’re talking about.

I hope I get the chance to meet Mr Stine somehow. I will do my best to see if there is an event at the time of my trip, a meet and greet possibly. It would be a dream come true and to have him sign some of the original format Fear Street books.

2) Mechanical bull ride

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Why not? You sometimes see it in movies and it does make me wonder if it’s really difficult to ride one. It is something very ‘American’ and I plan to do it. Besides, I wouldn’t find the mechanical bull anywhere else in the world. And I plan to ride the bull with a cowboy hat on. It’s the right way to do it. To be honest, I am terrified as I don’t want to break my neck falling off, but then again, it is once in a life time American experience.

3) New York University (NYU)

There was a time when I wanted to go to college/university in America. Even though I was attending a British international school, I still wanted to further my studies in America. I wanted to attend NYU and study either English or Law. But little did I know my path in life would change and I would end up going to London town. However, it would be nice to have a brief visit to NYU just to see the place where I could have ended up.

4) New Orleans

I have never been to New Orleans, but I’ve known of its unique and vibrant party atmosphere in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street and would like to experience it. For those of you who don’t know, I love to write about ghosts and the world beyond, and I do believe in that existence. Therefore, I wouldn’t mind visiting some voodoo witchcraft shops and have a spiritual reading done.

5) Visit a Gilmore Girls and American Pie kind of town/neighbourhood

I am a huge movie fan, and I like watching…and re-watching films and TV series addictively from the eighties, nineties and early twenties, particularly Gilmore Girls, American Pie and National Lampoon. There is something about the scenery and settings that always captures my attention. It makes me want to be there. Maybe what I see on TV is different from reality, but I rather experience it for myself.

6) San Francisco

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San Francisco was my parents’ favourite American state because of its calmness. I especially like the houses that line up along the steep road/hill. While in San Francisco, I would like to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge a few times. I always get mesmerized when I see the bridge on TV. There’s always something about it that makes me feel drawn to it. I guess visiting San Francisco will be in a way for my parents. I am going there on their behalf.

7) Rocky Mountains

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Just like with the Golden Gate Bridge, I get mesmerized by the American wilderness, especially with its pine trees.

8) Chicago

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Ok, this was Grayson’s idea. Chicago is Grayson’s home ground, and I was told by him that we HAD to stop over in Chicago. It’s not optional. I have never been to Chicago, therefore, I can’t say much.

9) Deserts

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Driving through a desert was inspired by me by Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon series.

10) New York City

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I want to take a picture with the frame at the exact same spot where the picture above was taken.

New York will be the last stop where my road trip ends. I will then spend about a week  there before heading back home to London. During my time in New York, I would like to stop by The Hamptons. I am a bustling city person, and I have always loved New York. I can’t live without the hectic city life around me.

During one night, I would like to dine at one of those elegant restaurants that plays lively, romantic and classy Frank Sinatra kind of music. I find that this kind of atmosphere suits and defines New York. New York, New York.

Well, that is all for part one. They will be more to come as the list grows and the adventure continues…