First Draft Finish Line

In this journey toward becoming a published author, I’ve learned to celebrate the small things. Otherwise, a road that can stretch for five years AFTER the manuscript is complete gets to feel somewhat like the Sahara at noon.

Dry. Dismal. Another hill to climb that looked just like the last five dozen hills climbed. No end in sight.

You get the idea.first-draft-oconner1

Thus, when I recently completed two first drafts within two weeks of each other, I did a serious happy dance. I posted my exultation on Facebook. Tweets exist to document my joy.

Of course, I know that a first draft is even uglier than a rough draft. It is generally filled with plot holes, clichés and shallow characters.

So, I opened the three-inch binder that held the 320-page manuscript of Doomsday Dragon. As I’ve shared before, after setting the project aside for a week or two, the first step toward perfection is a complete read-through.

Image my surprise when I didn’t have to make tons of circles (more information needed) and question marks (is this scene necessary?) on this first draft. If you recall my initial reaction to the last manuscript I rewrote, my stunned delight was nothing less than a 180.

In the spiral notebook dedicated to this project, I turned to a fresh page and entitled it “Changes needed after first read through.” When I did this with Daughter of Water in February, I filled the front and back of a notebook page.

Even though there were only six problems, they were huge. Things like “add POV for Kale and deepen Ausha.” And “setting incomplete.” These weren’t easy fixes. They screamed that the story had some serious issues.

For Doomsday Dragon, I had three questions, a note to include additional descriptions of the volcano types and a note to cut two scenes. Five things. And none of them could be classified as a “problem” with the manuscript.

In fact, as I was doing the read through, I laughed aloud a few times. I reread lines of description because they were original and captivating. I posted a few of them on Facebook and Tweeted a couple others.

Like this amazing moment inside my character’s head. Her voice comes through loud and clear:

“Zi gritted her back teeth to keep the full-blown smile from breaking the tense moment. Going to climb Everest and awaken a dragon, but he would be careful. Hilarious.”

The biggest problem is that I’m not quite as great getting inside the male protagonist’s head. I need to spend some more time listening to him talk. My initial plan to help with this is to rewrite all the scenes from his point of view first and consecutively.

Yes, the book needs to be rewritten. Of course, there’s some stuff in this first draft I want to keep. Words I believe reveal exactly what I intended. But it’s hardly perfect or ready for any eyes other than mine.

I’m wondering if I’m getting better at writing first drafts. Or if I’ve lowered my expectations. If you know me at all, you know option two is highly unlikely. In fact, there’s more chance of a dragon landing on my front porch. Yeah, I need to work on that one. Still.

Any fellow writers reading this, have you experienced a similar phenomenon with your writing? Those of you whose interest is piqued about the story, submit your questions in the comments. I’ll be happy to post more teasers and sample lines as the writing process continues.

8 thoughts on “First Draft Finish Line

  1. That’s amazing, Sharon!! What a relief you must have felt, knowing that the work ahead of you isn’t going to be as extensive as last time. I’ve heard, although not experienced yet, that with each successive book the revision/editing becomes easier because you do in fact learn to write better from correcting all of your mistakes. I’ll be starting book 2 next month for NaNo, so we’ll see if that holds true. Y

    ou sound like you already have a system that works for you, but in case you want to check out something extra/different, take a read through this: http://hollylisle.com/one-pass-manuscript-revision-from-first-draft-to-last-in-one-cycle/

    1. Thanks for sharing the link.
      In truth, my process is quite similar to the one this author describes. My issue with only making one pass through the manuscript is that my writer brain and my editor brain do not safely co-exist. Seriously. When they show up at the same time and in the same place, fur flies. The end result is that my writer brain runs and hides and is difficult to lure out once I finally lock Ms. Editor in the basement, securely duct-taped.
      Let me know if you need a beta reader for book one or would like a small sample critiqued. I love your writing voice so I’m sure your story will be fantastic.

  2. Each revision should be easier than the last. Just the fact that you can look at your novel and notice the flaws is a huge step in the right direction. Just keep plugging away. Also, great idea to rewrite the scenes in the guy’s POV. Sounds time consuming though. Let me know how that works out for you!

    1. Actually, it went smoothly to just follow the story from his POV from start to finish. I really felt like I could hear his voice as things progressed. Once I follow the dragon’s story and then the female protagonist’s (yes I have three different POVs in my story) I will definitely need to read through the whole thing to make sure the flow of the overall story is right.

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.