First Draft: Throw Dreams Into the Universe, Shake, and Stir
I get my best ideas when I’m with my sister. She’s like my muse of sorts. Or maybe it just happens that we’re always together when inspiration strikes. Maybe we hang out with each other too much? Just kidding! My sister is my favorite person, and even though she doesn’t always understand what I’m babbling on about, she always supports it.
I held her hostage for an hour once while I recounted what would then become The Dark In-Between in intricate detail, acting out the entirety of the plot in our tiny one-bedroom apartment that we shared during university.
The idea for the book was born of some research I did for an assignment on the Lazarus effect—people coming back to life spontaneously after being pronounced dead. That idea plus my love of paranormal and YA fiction created this convoluted story that I felt compelled to tell. I still remember the look on my sister’s face when my elaborate game of charades was over.
She nodded for a bit, taking it all in. Then she said, “That makes no sense.”
But it made perfect sense to me, everything just right in my head. Now, if I could only get it all down on paper before the plot bunnies disappeared.
I got my chance in the month following my last semester at university. Here’s what my life looked like: Graduation was just around the corner, I had a giant licensing exam to pass in order to be a fully-qualified and employable nurse, I was prepping to move across the country for a job, and I’d scheduled my road test to get my driver’s license (I hated driving back then!) all in the same four-ish weeks. All things considered, this was the perfect time to draft, write, and edit a novel. Or so my brain thought.
Let me rewind a bit and preface this part by saying that my procrastination game is on point.
If I had learned anything in university, it was that I was at my most productive when I was under stress. This is when I did my best procrastinating, learning cool skills or tackling interesting projects outside of what I was actually supposed to be doing. Usually, it went something like this: It’s time to study for exams now. Nope, I’m signing myself up to learn American Sign Language instead. Okay, great, then at least take some time to write this giant paper that’s due next week. Nope, let’s learn to play the flute, or the piano, or the ukulele. How many instruments can I play at the same time? Fine then, how about you study and pass the licensing exam so you can actually get a real job? Nope, now it’s time to write a book.
This is how my brain functions. Not ideal, but productive. And I have the strangest assortment of hobbies and skills to prove it.
What I figured out was that distracting myself with other things actually helped me focus better. Writing calmed me. It grounded me. When my life was literally spiralling out of control with all the changes happening after university, writing was a nice place to land.
I’d been writing throughout university and I knew I wanted to pursue this writing dream one day, probably way in the future when I was settled and my life was less crazy, but there was something different about this manuscript. Something about it demanded to be known by more than just my hard drive. First drafts are sort of magical like that. They can make you do all sorts of crazy things, like think, Maybe this is the one? Maybe it’s time to put it out there? And I was so busy at the time, I figured, what do I have to lose? I’ll just take this small piece of my soul, imbued with all my dreams, polish it up and toss it into the universe (or onto an amazing website called Swoon Reads).
And that’s exactly what I did. I threw The Dark In-Between into the universe, gave my life a good shake-up, and stirred in other projects to keep me busy. I kept writing. Kept working on other dreams. And one day, I woke up to an email that said Swoon Reads wanted to talk.
So, when you’re not sure where to start, just throw your dreams into the universe, give it all a good shake and stir, and then stand back to see where they land. Sometimes, it’s in a pretty cool place.