First draft of The Confederation Diary of Rosie Dunn is done! I don’t know about the rest of you, but first drafts are really really hard for me. I start off with great enthusiasm and energy, but inevitably run into a brick wall. There will be a day when I stagger into the living room and announce that this is the book I can’t finish. At this point my husband comments, often without even looking up from his newspaper, “Oh, third chapter already?”
This time, while I was moaning about it, a friend gave me the useful advice that when stuck, having the roof fall in usually gets you going again. I didn’t do that, but I did set fire to the cowshed. It worked. By the time I got the cow out and the fire extinguished I was off and running again.
Once the first draft is done, however, I can relax and have fun. I love rewriting and revising. To me, it’s playing. I can’t wait to get at it and see what I’ve written and where it’s going to go. My first drafts are usually short and sketchy, with lots of room to expand and layer. And I want to dig in and get to know Rosie Dunn better. She is a lively girl.
This book is set in Ottawa in 1866/67. I did an enormous amount of research, a lot of it at the Public Archives in Ottawa. Ottawa was a pretty horrible place to live in, in 1866. Nothing much there when Queen Victoria declared that it was to be the capital of Canada except sawmills and mud. And the Parliament Buildings, of course. Not quite finished when the Government moved in, but still big and beautiful. A lot of people wondered why the Queen had chosen Ottawa. At the time, after the War of 1812, people were worried about another American invasion, however, and one witty civil servant remarked that at least if the Americans did invade, they would never be able to find the town, it was so remote from civilization.
How about all of you writers out there? How do you feel about first drafts? Do you write long or short? When do you hit your wall? Or do you? Maybe you’re one of the fortunate ones who never gets blocked?
I’d love to hear about your experiences.