The first post… on first drafts!

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No big intro post from me – I thought it would be best to jump straight into things!

The obvious place to start with the first post would be the first draft. You can see the picture of my first draft above. I wrote it over the course of a month during NaNoWriMo. There was no real structure or plan, just a general idea of where I wanted to start, how I wanted it to end, and a few major points in the plot. From there, I pretty much gave the story free rein and let it take me where it would.

I’ll be frank. It was terrible. Reading it now makes me cringe. You can see from the photo that it’s covered in annotations – and that was just stylistic. Don’t even get me started on the plot. But what helped a lot was giving it to a friend I trusted and asking her to go through it without holding anything back. My amazingly tolerant friend made it through the whole thing – then went through again and added comments that covered everything from stupid punctuation mistakes to moral dissonance issues.

For me, the main issues were:

  1. Awkward sentences
  2. Unsympathetic main character
  3. Zero plot tension

In short, the story was completely unworkable. So I trashed that draft and started over. It definitely wasn’t easy – regardless of how bad a story is, it’s still the baby you labored over. But you also need to be able to look at it (at least somewhat) objectively and assess if it has potential. In this case, I felt the core concepts were solid, but the plot would need to be completely changed.

That’s why you shouldn’t give up completely on what seems to be a disastrous draft. Don’t be discouraged, either. It may be many thousands of words (mine was about 65,000) that seem wasted, but it’s a great springboard for the second iteration. You know what needs to be fixed, what parts worked and what didn’t. It’s easier than starting from a completely blank page! Keeping that in mind, I started over.

Not that it was easy. It took me about a week or two to work out the new plot, and even then it was rather rough. Still, a few weeks into in, I have to say I’m liking it much better than the original. That’s not to say it’s a masterpiece – far from it. But it’s certainly an improvement!

I hope you’ll join me as I work through draft number 2. I’m also learning and making things up as I go, so a lot of the time, you’ll probably be more clued in than I am! Obviously I also hope that the techniques I stumble across will also be of some help to you.

So, let’s start with the most obvious question. Have you had any disastrous first drafts? I’d love to hear about your experiences. If not, how did you manage to avoid it?


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