It’s been a month since I finished the first draft of my second novel.

I felt strangely bereft when I’d finished. For two months I’d thought about very little other than my two main characters. I’d imagined conversations between them. I’d fallen asleep, planning the next chapter. They were in my head and sometimes I’d think so far ahead, I started forgetting what I’d planned to write. I’d known from very early on how the story would progress but as I wrote it down, things would happen that I wasn’t expecting and I loved that feeling of being surprised by my own creation.

The first night after finishing the draft I couldn’t sleep. Somehow, concentrating on their story had distracted my mind and made me fall asleep quickly. Without them, I was thinking about all kinds of mundane things that kept me awake all night.

I was nervous about reading it. I hoped I’d like it, that this labour of love wouldn’t turn out to be a waste of time. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate it. I found bits that made me, not quite laugh out loud – because I’d already heard the joke – but certainly made me grin. I loved my characters. I remembered things that I’d forgotten I’d written. I even discovered that I made less notes towards the end of the book, which I took to mean that my writing had improved as I progressed.

I started the rewrite the next day and it was a relief to bring back my characters. I slept much better. I’ve tweaked and changed and added bits. I’ve thought it was finished, but kept just checking and tweaking and adding more bits. I’ve held on to it for, perhaps longer than necessary.

But this week, I decided it was time to set it free, to send it out to some trusted people to read and give me their thoughts. And now I wait. I’ve sent it to four people, although I suspect, only one of them will give me honest feedback; the others will just tell me they love it because I wrote it – but perhaps I need to hear that, to give me the confidence to send it on further.

Depending on their feedback, I may do some more rewrites before sending it out to some people who, perhaps, won’t feel obligated to say good things.

In the meantime, my attention has turned to new stories. Out of curiosity I enrolled on a short writing course. I didn’t recognise the processes at all. I downloaded sheets for character development, plot planning and environment descriptions. I thought about the novel I’d just finished writing and compared it with my approach to the first novel I wrote 7 years ago. Both had just sort of popped into my head and I’d written them with very little planning.

Finally, somewhere in the course was a brief note: ‘Some authors just write with no planning and let the characters and plot drive the story.’

Phew! My technique is valid.

I have a story idea brewing at the moment. I attempted to use the lessons I’d learned by creating character and environment descriptions. I’ve spent three days staring at a blank page because it feels too rigid. But today, I had a breakthrough and the plot just made itself known to me while I was trying to work out my character’s “motivation.”

I love it when that happens. When you have an idea but can’t really see what the story is. I’ve spent a while mulling over ideas, imagining conversations, but nothing has really stuck until now. I like to think my brain takes all the random ideas floating around, processes them and then spits out my story, fully formed into a temporary file, from which I can translate it into written words.

I can’t wait to get started. It’ll keep me distracted while I wait to hear from my beta readers.