Beyond the First Draft

It was September. I was unemployed, living in the bottom half of my cousin’s house in Houston, Texas because I moved from Missouri to Texas with hopes of landing my first big corporate job after college. I didn’t get the job and I moved for nothing. I was also having a major health scare—breast cancer. Two of my aunts had it; one living and one not. My father died from pancreatic cancer and my mother was in remission from leukemia. I was freaking out and the only thing that held me together was my imagination and my need to tell a story. 

By October, life was looking up. I didn’t have breast cancer but I did have a tumor. I booked a flight back to St. Louis because the whole breast cancer scenario scared me back into wanting my mom close enough to hug. Plus, I didn’t want to overstay my welcome with my cousin. Our relationship was on good terms and I didn’t want that to change but before I left Houston, I took three days to outline a book. Well, really it was four but one of the days was a none writing day. 

I’d been trying to write a book for nearly a year before then but could never get it together. It’s funny how functional you can become when you think you’re dying at 23. 

Anyway, by the time I landed in St. Louis, it was October and chilly. I started writing the first draft and hammered out 27,000 words. I got a job and attempted to take part in NaNoWriMo. Everything was going well with my word count until it wasn’t. My body and mind were freaking out over all the long hours. I’d come home from working eight and a half to nine hours and then I’d write for three hours. I needed to slow everything down. By the end of November, I had 50,000 words although I didn’t win NaNoWriMo. After a few days of rest, I felt energized again and decided to push forward with the story. I stopped at 65,000 words.

My first draft was finished, the new year was coming and I was ecstatic. I wrote my first draft in 3 months and although I was excited, I knew the second draft was going to be a beast. I loved my story, truly, but I also knew it could be better. Just by simply shifting the book from a plot-driven story to a character-driven narrative, I could tell a better story. I started thinking about all the things that needed to change and I began to feel overwhelmed by my own creation. And just like that, I was given a reason to procrastinate when I should have been striking while the iron was hot.

Someone I knew needed a ghostwriter for some articles so I volunteered my time and they volunteered their money or however that normally works. Before I knew it, I was also helping with papers and other things. Don’t judge me. The money was nice and it’s not like I was working on medical papers or any important skills. Plus, I never did it while I was in school because I had a stricter sense of morals back then, I guess. At first, I put the money in my savings account and then I decided to use it to pay off bills. Mainly, the money went towards the credit card debt I’d racked up during my summer of unemployment, interstate moves, and breast cancer examinations and screenings…because “America!”. 

The plan was to start the second draft in February but the months seemed to slip through my fists like sand. Before I knew it, it was May and my first draft was still sitting in my closet on the top shelf in a dusty black binder with notes crowded onto the margins, sticky notes hanging from the sides and multicolored highlights illuminating my favorite passages. It was waiting for me to finish it—to fix it. To make it presentable. It was waiting for me to stop letting other things distract me and keep me from what I really wanted. It was waiting for me to overcome my own subconscious fears of not being good enough. It was waiting for me to open it again and finish what I started.

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