For me, the writer’s journey, from first word to final manuscript, is a long and dangerous one (at least as far as sanity is concerned). Living inside the heads of so many characters can’t be good for my health but like Frodo, the ring-bearer, it’s my cross to bear. I recently likened my protectiveness towards a first draft manuscript as characteristic of Gollum. I liked the comparison at the time but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, as I forge my way through the landscape of the novel to that elusive final draft, I invoke many more members of the Fellowship.
The Hobbit Phase (Planning and character development)
Everything is shiny and new, the ideas come thick and fast and excitement is at an all-time high. I feel as carefree as the hobbits frolicking in the Shire. Life is good and nothing can ruin the feeling. But, there are dark clouds gathering on the horizon, something big is in the making and I know little of the tumultuous world beyond my home (outline).
Frodo Phase (1st Draft)
Writing now begins in earnest, a grand adventure in the outset. Soon I am hounded by temptation at every turn. The lure of new projects or simply procrastination (blogging, as I’ve come to call it) is great, issuing forth its Siren call. I get an almost constant feeling of being out of my depth but, like our hero, I’m driven, single-mindedly, by one goal: destroy the one ring…I mean, finish the story. So, I plow ever onwards despite the difficulties.
Gollum Phase (Transition period)
This is the worst time for me. The first draft is now complete and I must let it rest, forget about it for a time. It’s around now that I start to hide in dark corners, stroking my manuscript (keep it clean) and cooing ‘my precioussssss’. I grow very (over)protective of it and can realise a potential for violence if it gets misplaced or taken from me. These are not the only traits I share with this anti-hero, there’s also the matter of our stunningly-good looks.
Gimli Phase (2nd Draft – plot holes and pit falls)
The manuscript rested and my temptation with other projects sated, I can now start my first read-through and second draft. Heroically, I wade into the thick of it, wielding my mighty dwarven axe to cut and hack at sentences, even whole scenes, which don’t hold true to the story. This phase can be short skirmish or a lengthy campaign but it always ends the same way – piles of dead words at my feet (or spilling out of the litter bin).
Legolas Phase (3rd Draft – sound and flow)
With the broad strokes taken care of, subtlety comes into play. Now, I’m keen of eye and ear using both to hunt and track errant words and scenes from the story with precision, surgically removing them with my white-handled blade (red pen). This is a time for ensuring the narrative flies straight (figuratively) and true like an arrow loosed from my bow, that no obstacles or humps are encountered which may way-lay or deter the reader from seeking the end of their quest, the end of the novel.
Gandalf Phase (4th Draft – grammar and spelling)
The fourth draft is purely a proof-read for grammar and spelling. I stand on the precipice and scream: “You [poor wording/spelling errors] shall not pass!” This is a time where the wisdom of experience is most sought after, to apply the final shine and coax any overlooked potential disasters into the light.
Aragorn Phase (Final manuscript and submission)
The journey is finally over (for now) and I feel like the king of all that I survey. It’s a new world out there just ready for the taking.