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The End of the Beginning

My First Draft

On 31st December 2020, fifteen months after embarking on the DIY MA syllabus, I printed the 83,000 words of the first draft of my novel.

The journey has been a fascinating one that has changed not only my writing, but also how I consume others writing. The syllabus, kindly posted by Andrew Wille on his blog at: I recommend to anyone who wishes to improve their writing skills, but be prepared for some serious effort. It is a comprehensive course of study with challenging exercises and readings.

Now I am keen to begin editing. I last looked at the manuscript on the 18th December, and although it sits on my desk, I’m resisting reading it again until about 15th January. The 163 pages of text are printed in Garamond, with a landscape orientation, in two columns. As recommended in the syllabus, I’ve tried to replicate a ‘book like’ look as much as possible to differentiate from the screen the work was written on. To prepare I am reading ‘The Artful Edit’ by Susan Bell, and rereading Francine Prose’s ‘Reading Like a Writer’.

I’m under no illusion that it will be anything but a poor piece of work, requiring much attention to make it at all readable. But I am also confident that, although poor, it’s much better than any other long form work I have attempted.

My plan for the next six months is two rounds of edits, one at macro level, one at micro level. By the end of June, I aim to have copy ready for beta reading, should anyone be willing to read my efforts.

Accessing the year two aspects of the syllabus, and Andrew Wille’s website now leads me in new directions. Just when I think I have got the hang of storytelling structures, along come new ideas, such as fur act structures or stories without conflict. These are interesting ideas, but they will have to wait for my next work to be utilised. My current work is grounded in a three-act structure with clear conflicts, and resolutions.

I am deeply indebted to two people for getting as far as I have with this work; the wonderfully talented and generous Andrew Wille for the comprehensive resource that is his website, and George, my writing buddy, who has shared his own journey with me.

Of course I couldn't resist typing "The End" on the last page. I felt a real sense of achievement at getting to "The End", and celebrated in a suitable way. But I also know there is still a long way to go on this journey.


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Unknown member
Jan 05, 2021

Thank you, Helen.


Helen Baggott
Helen Baggott
Jan 05, 2021


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