Posted on 20 May 2013

I finished the first draft of my novel-in-progress last week. Before you suggest breaking out the champagne, I have to remind you (and myself) this is just the beginning of a very long road. I don’t outline in advance, so to say my first drafts are messy is an understatement. But it definitely feels good to have the rough beginnings of the story on the page — a story I feel has real promise. The opening chapters of this novel are what won me the scholarship to Tin House and also earned me a finalist nod from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Promise or not, writing to the end of a novel is a long, lonely process. Here’s who (and what) kept me company during many of those early morning writing sessions:

Cirrus, in my way.

Saucy, sitting pretty.

 My trusty pot of tea. With Cirrus in the background, of course.


Oh, look who it is.


Everyone knows unicorns are good luck.


Remember this guy? I kept him on my desk until I finished the draft.


Cirrus, yet again. I think he’d crawl inside my computer if he could.

Not pictured: 1. My writing buddies from when I worked on this novel during our occasional writing sessions. 2. The little boy who lives on my street and who interrupted my flow (in a charming sort of way) by sobbing his head off every morning when the school bus picked him up.

From here, I’m taking at least a month-long break from the novel to gain some distance and perspective. If only Cirrus could say the same thing about my laptop, I’d be set.

Who keeps you company when you write?

18 responses to Company

  • Lyra says:

    Wait. How long did this draft take you??

    Congratulations, my friend. You are such a fantastic writer and to know you have the new Bowling Green gig and time to write and perfect this new piece. Love.

    As for me, I am accompanied by a train full of commuters every day when I write. I’m like Pavlov’s dog now. I get on the train, turn on the laptop and away I go.

    • Roughly nine months, which I know sounds insanely short, but remember: messy, messy first draft. Plus, without that Writers in the Heartland residency last October, there’s no way I’d be even close to done right now. I have a lot to be grateful for. But ask me again in 6-12 months when I’m swallowed up by revisions.

  • Sarah W says:

    You’re my inspiration, Laura! You and Cirrus, I mean.

    Toby Cat is my usual company, unless you count my headphones and mug collection. But sometimes, when I have the laptop propped up against the arm of the air-conditioned side of the couch in the evening, a small child will appear, cuddle into my side, and fall asleep.

    Her head will immediately gain twenty pounds and eventually generate the heat output of a small, damp sun until I finish my scene and put us both to bed.

    Oddly, she’s become an important part of the process . . .

    • Yep, I get what you mean…for example, as frustrating as it is when Cirrus sheds fur in my eyeballs while I’m trying to write, it’s oddly lonely when he’s not there.

  • Teri says:

    As you might imagine, the floor around my feet is very … well … occupied. ;-)

    And let’s be real: these dogs, all 3 of them, keep me sane. This morning I was editing an awful chapter about my mother when JoJo put her head in my lap and I suddenly heard myself saying, “Mama loves you. Do you love your mama? Is your mama the best mama in the whole world?”


  • Paul Lamb says:

    Congrats on finishing that first draft. A month away will do you and the story a lot of good, if my experience is any judge.

    I write in solitude. I could probably have two dogs curled at my feet if I wanted, but after a half hour or so, they’d want to play. Not good. So I keep the door closed.

    And I’m not even close to Teri as the best dog daddy in the world. Geez, is there anything that woman can’t do????

  • Congrats, Laura! I know the challenges of the discovery draft, and now I’m trying the GPS/mapquest draft. I think I like the latter better, mostly because I see possibility in every detail and don’t want to delete it. An outline keeps my randomness and ability to connect unrelated things at bay.

    Sonny Hawks is an orange tabby who serves as my mewse. He talks to me constantly and demands attention at certain times. Once I put him down for a nap (and he acts just like a cranky toddler) we’re golden for writing time. I guess that’s less like a muse and more like an obstacle. Anyway, I love him and can’t do the writing thang without him in a ring on the chair behind me.

    Also, congratulations on your move to Bowling Green. That’s very exciting.


    • You put your cat down for a nap? Hmm…maybe I need to try that with Cirrus.

      And I love your “GPS draft” description. I usually like that part of the process better than the first draft, too — except for the times I’m depressed my draft isn’t living up to my own incredibly high expectations.

  • Hiro (12-lb-poodle/bichon thing) curled up asleep on a pillow at my feet. (What, you think he’d sleep on the floor?) Big lab-guest who does NOT help my writing. Some good music.

    Bowling Green! Yikes, changes. I’d love to hear how the MFA process strikes you. I did it lo these many years ago, and loved it, but I was also much more beginning writer back then.

    • Yeah, I’ve really gone back and forth on the whole MFA thing. I’m clearly able to do the work on my own. I know I don’t *need* an MFA (very few need it, I believe) but it’s a wonderful opportunity to focus on writing for the next two years, meet some new people, and hopefully learn as much as possible. I’m sure you’ll be hearing plenty more from me on this issue after I begin!

    • Teri says:

      How long are you taking care of this lab? You are an incredible friend to take someone’s one year old lab for all this time!

  • Averil says:

    Congrats on the draft, Laura! You continue to inspire me.

    I’ve got my faithful little Izzy, who follows me everywhere and is never happier than when she’s wedged in the side of the armchair or curled up under my desk. Bonus doggie points: she makes sure I get outside every day for a walk.

    • That is one major advantage dogs have over cats. What my cats most want in all the world is for me to lounge around on the couch so they can sit on me. Movement is highly discouraged, unless of course I’m flicking the laser pointer or Da Bird.

  • Catherine says:

    Congratulations on finishing the draft! Oh yes I understand messy first drafts. I have one waiting for me this summer. How to summon the vision and belief! Enjoy the break.

    I also write on my own and need an empty house, no tractors or phone calls. I know, I am awful to live with too!

  • Recent Posts

    Tag Cloud

    5 random things acceptance American Literary Review AWP AWP 2012 book reviews books Bread Loaf 2012 cat lady cats Cirrus Cleveland Cleveland writers contests failure Fiction Writers Review first drafts Huda Al-Marashi literary magazines living arrangements Mac's Backs Mid-American Review NaNoWriMo novel revisions Opal Poets & Writers publishing reading rejection revision rust belt chic Saucy Sophie Kerr Prize Stories on Stage The Writing Life this is what the publishing process looks like tricia springstubb Washington College writing advice writing buddies writing frustrations writing goals writing groups writing retreat writing workshops


    Laura Maylene Walter is proudly powered by WordPress and the SubtleFlux theme.

    Copyright © Laura Maylene Walter