Writing a First Draft of a New Book

I’m on chapter six of the first draft of a new time travel mystery novel tentatively titled Not Expecting This. In the book a pregnant seventeen year old, Bailey Blackstone, accidentally travels back in time to 1870’s Colorado. She lands in a gold mining camp/town up in the Rockies.

I particularly like that part of Colorado. Many years ago, when I lived in Colorado, my family and I did some hiking and sightseeing up there.

Because the book is essentially a historical novel, I am researching that era and the Colorado gold rush, mining camps, mining tools, etc. I’m having fun and getting educated.

But the actual writing of the book has been a slow process. In this particular book, I keep going back over the first five chapters to fine tune them as much as I can at this point of the story development.

Why is that? I usually tell writers to just get the story down and don’t worry about editing until it’s finished, right?

Well, usually that’s how I write, but in this particular book, I need to fully immerse myself in its world before I move forward. I think that’s crucial. It was similar with my last book, Breadcrumbs and Bombs (another historical novel). To immerse myself, I must create the setting and characters in enough detail that I feel like I’m watching a movie or living the story along with the characters.

From the sixth chapter or so, it’ll be easier in some ways because now I’m seeing everything play out before my eyes. But, at the same time, it’ll still be difficult because I’ll need to figure out some of the plot. (I have a plot outline, but I’ll have to figure out some missing pieces as I go along.)

The first draft is where I get to be completely creative. It’s where I get to create a whole world, people, etc. out of thin air. It’s hard work but it’s fun. After the first draft, when I know the story works, I’ll edit, edit, edit. That’s when I’ll worry about each word. It’s where I’ll add more detail and really expand some scenes. Then I’ll turn the whole thing over to my editor. That’s where the final polishing of  the manuscript happens.


Susan Finlay has nine published mystery novels to date. The newest is Breadcrumbs and Bombs, the first book in a brand new series.


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