Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The First Draft

There is nothing more satisfying than completing the first draft of a new novel. You did it. 50,000 to 100,000+ of your very own words collected into hundreds of pages. You have characters, a hook, a unique plot, danger lurking in every corner, witty's sure to change the literary marketplace forever.

And then you read through your first draft, and there's nothing worse than the feeling that comes after that. Your characters may be one-dimensional, you have spelling errors, plot holes, you changed the name of a character halfway through, or you almost fell asleep reading one of your chapters. You have two choices at this juncture: you can scrap it or fix it.

You should always try to fix it.

I treat my first drafts as a journey. I need to complete it, reach the destination, before I can determine what's wrong. The first trip through, I hit detours, road blocks, bad parts of town...overall, it's a less-than-fabulous experience. But there are some bright spots. Maybe I happen upon that largest ball of twine I've always wanted to see or find a roadside restaurant with the best chicken strips.

The next time I take my trip, it's a bit smoother. I take an alternate route to avoid the road closures and still make my stops at the twine and chicken strip restaurant. Maybe I ask someone else for directions and they point out some other cool places I can go.

Each time I take my journey, it gets better and more interesting. But it wouldn't exist at all without that first unpleasant excursion. The most important thing is to finish the trip.

Writer friends, how would you classify your first drafts? Do they need a lot of work? A little tweaking? Or are they perfection the first time through?

I fall into the "need a lot of work" category.


tracyellen said...

Considering that I just finished my very first first draft, I can say with much confidence that it needs a lot of work. The thought of sitting down and reading it terrified me, but when I did it really wasn't as bad as I thought. There were a few bright spots and some good dialogue, but overall it needed work.

I love your ball of twine and roadside restaurant analogies. My dad always called those "diamonds in the rough."

Rachel Menard said...

I love going to those cheezy off the road places!