Wednesday’s post on the “Almost Dead Files” is a stellar example of Latayne’s natural talent and genius. I think we all agree it would be a crying shame if she never completed the manuscript. Maybe one day she will be able to fit it into her hectic life.
Out of curiosity, I plugged in my old flash drive and pulled up my first novel with every intention of posting a paragraph or two. How bad could it be? After all, it was taken to committee by the first editor who read it. (Bless her heart)
The story couldn’t have been farther removed from what I now write. The 50,000 word manuscript was a Gold Rush romance set in early California with a newly widowed heroine who is alone in the world and thrown into dependence on the one she blamed for her husband’s death. I researched at night and wrote scenes during afternoon nap time at my home day care. The story poured easily from some deeply creative space, so again, how bad could it be?
Um…there are no words for how bad it is, so I won’t subject you to it. But I will perform an autopsy. Here are some of the classic mistakes I made on my first draft:
Opened too far from the action
Flashback in the first chapter
Heroine too snarky
Didn’t check the guidelines from the targeted publisher
Didn’t target a publisher
Passive word choices (yawn)
Too much description
Overuse of hyphens
Rambling elevator pitch
Here are some things I did right (on the rewrite):
Extensive research, invested in books on life during the Gold Rush
Chopped the first three chapters
Used flashbacks sparingly and farther from the opening
Wrote more natural dialogue
Improved the heroine’s likeability
Researched publishers and modified scenes to meet their guidelines
Changed the POV to first person
Included the hero’s POV
Limited the number of sentences that began with “I”
Cut duplicate, unnecessary characters (or combined them)
Cut description that did not serve a purpose
Added a few twists to the plot
Improved the elevator pitch and practiced it
I deleted more than I added to the final draft. Cut, chopped, changed, limited are words that mean business. I remember that I had to step back from it for awhile before the knife was steady in my hand. A lot of work had gone into all those words, but I knew the story was better off without them.
What is the most important thing you learned from writing your first draft of your first manuscript? We'd love to hear!