How I Finished the First Draft of My Novel

Photo by Ana Arantes on

Way back in November 2021, while insanely sleep-deprived from caring for a one-month-old, I made a fateful—and you might say crazy—decision: I decided to take a crack at writing a novel.

This was far from my first attempt at writing a novel. My computer’s hard drive is littered with abandoned first drafts I had every intention of finishing. I can come up with ideas at the drop of a hat, but following through on those ideas has always been a struggle for me. This time, something was different.

Every day in the month of November, I wrote. And I don’t mean I sat down at my computer with a steaming mug of tea and no distractions while I worked on my masterpiece. I was working full-time, caring for my newborn daughter, and supporting my exhausted spouse as we survived the early days of parenthood. There was no extra time for this creative endeavor. So, I wrote in the middle of the night while rocking a baby to sleep, tapping a story out one-handed on my phone in the dark at 3 a.m., and praying to the autocorrect gods that my words would be intelligible in the morning.

November came and went. I kept writing. The Google Doc I was working in groaned under the stress as the novel grew. Soon, the app was crashing every third or fourth time I opened it. But I pressed on, determined to see the project through.

In February of 2022, my wife went back to work and I took leave to spend time with our daughter. So, nap time became writing time. In between juggling parenting and housework, while making sure the dog was getting her walks and putting out a fiction podcast, I soldiered on.

Last week, I typed the final line of the first draft of my novel, bringing my story to a close. I’m taking a break before diving into the next phase: editing. For now, I can at last say that I did what I set out to do. I wrote a novel. At just shy of 100,000 words long and chronicling the ups and downs of a family entangled with the Las Vegas Mob over the course of six decades, it’s no small feat.

Several years ago, I set myself a task of completing a manuscript by the time I turned 30 years old. I missed that deadline by a couple of years, but I proved to myself that it was possible. And having done it once, I’m pretty sure I could do it again. That’s a good feeling. I’m well aware that there’s so much more work to be done. This is only the beginning. But I’m choosing to bask in this pause between the first round of labor and all the editing that is still to come to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.

If there’s a message to other artists in my experience of these past few months, it’s that it is never too late. If you’re contemplating a daunting creative project, go for it. Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it will never come. Take the leap. Write it down. Pick up the paintbrush. See how far you can go.


Jonny Eberle is a writer and aspiring podcaster in Tacoma, WA. His fiction has been featured in Creative Colloquy, Grit City Magazine, and All Worlds Wayfarer. You can listen to his debut audio drama, The Adventures of Captain Radio or his writing and creativity podcast, Dispatches with Jonny Eberle, wherever you find podcasts. Follow him on Twitter or join his mailing list for more news, writing, and musings.

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