Monday, March 31, 2014

No Virginia, There's No Such Thing as The First Draft

Last week, I announced on Facebook that I had completed the first draft of my WIP.

My mother read on Facebook that I had completed the first draft of my WIP. She asked to read it.
I laughed and laughed.

No way anyone is reading that puppy.

I lied about completing the first draft.

Or. Maybe not.

I can't be certain.

What I know is if anyone read the draft it would be like what I imagine a magician would feel like revealing his or her secrets.

My first draft is a blabber mouth. It explains how I do all my tricks.

There is so much rough stuff inside that first draft, so many side notes, and highlighted ALL CAPS messages to myself that should anyone read it they'd think, Shazam, I know exactly how she twists the plot, rearranges time, and spaces out plot reveals that I could just go home and write the thing myself.

And we can't have that.

I have come to a startling conclusion:

I don't believe in first drafts.

Meaning, I doubt they exist. I would love to believe there are writers out there who pound out a story so well crafted that the second draft is only so much polishing. If you told me that is exactly how you write, I'd smile and nod and later I'd draw pictures of you with the eyes X'ed out.

My second draft isn't polishing. It's major reconstructive surgery. And not the out patient kind. The you're going to be here for awhile so you might as well get comfortable and for heaven's sake stop abusing the nurse call button.

You can't read my second draft, either.

Sure, I've tucked away most of the dead giveaways, spun the scenes so they glisten just enough to distract you from what I don't want you to see.


And I'm being butt-neeked honest here.

But, that second draft (meaning the manuscript after I've moved through it fully from the opening chapter to THE END) has a face only a mother could love. Still more voice and jazz hands than breathless pacing and didn't-see-it-coming-but-now-that-it's-here-it-couldn't-have-happened-any-other-way plot twists.

After the third time through the novel I've tucked away the how-to secrets, buried the plot twists, sped up that pacing and layered on the subtle elements of story-world, sub-plot, running jokes (this story has a few running jokes. Cuz I like running jokes and it's my story so there), character traits, time line (cursed thing, that time line. Bane of my writing existence), and break-neck speed ending.

After the third time through, I might consider letting some very close friends have a peek. Only because I begged them.

And what would I call that draft?

In my email to my close friends begging them to read the thing I would say this: Please, please, please, pretty please read this first draft and let me know how much needs to change/be rewritten/be burned at the stake.

Yep. I'd call that one my first draft.

Which is total ca-ca.

And also absolutely true.


Megan Sayer said...

Oh boy. Oooooh boy.
You know how happy this makes me? VERY happy.
Thank you, thank you thank you for your honesty on this one. I've felt bad for the badness, the unfinished awfulness of those first attempts at drafts. Sometimes the unfinished awfulness is overwhelming.
Thank you!!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

This is so funny. I'd planned on blogging about first drafts, too. I used to think all the magic went into the first-ish drafts. Ha!

I'm in the midst of a first draft. This one is so very, very different from my others. I know that part of it is because I've grown as a writer. Part is the nature of the story. Still, with all the difficulties and false starts, I'm loving the process as much as ever. I know I'll love it even more once I get to editing.

Thanks for this post, Bonnie.

Julie Saffrin said...

Fabulous post. You made my day. I am hard at work taking the clunks out of my multi-draft book.

Timelines. Such mood wreckers.

Love that you revealed your method. Kind of made me want to be Methodist.

Seriously, you are a terrific joy to read and I read all your posts. Cheers to your conquerables.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Ain't it the truth.

Kathy H-C said...

Very helpful! I think that's part of the reason I'm having so much trouble with my current WIP--I used to do drafting on paper & since I moved to computer it's too easy to delete stuff on impulse. I need all those asides and notes to self!
Thanks for the insights.

Bonnie Grove said...

Megan: I think what matters is getting the whole story down, no matter what it looks like. You're welcome. :)

Susie: Happy writing!

Bonnie Grove said...

Julie: Thanks for the cheer. Timelines, right? Gah! I love to play with time but in my playing, I'll often lose track of an important plot point. The notes to self help keep me on the straight and narrow.

Cherry: Word.

Kathy: It took me time to get comfortable with leaving myself a note and keep writing. But now, I wouldn't do it any other way. My first draft (aside from the separate sheet of notes) is riddled with the bullet holes of ideas that I left behind. I also include questions I need to answer through research and tag them throughout the ms.
God bless the post-it note.

Anonymous said...

My first draft is a thousand writing exercises and planning charts and a million colored index cards laying in various order all over my floor. Then I'll write the first draft. :)

Marcia Lee Laycock said...

Yeah, I'm with you here, Bonnie. My 'first draft" is well, not. ;)

Henrietta Frankensee said...

First draft is whatever hits the editor's desk. All 20 years of writing up to that point are "proto-drafts"

Bonnie Grove said...

Vonilda: It takes many forms! I use a notebook for each novel--a journal--with charts, graphs, character arcs, symbols, scene sketches, the works. The book in bits and pieces, each subject to change.

Marcia: *high five*

Henrietta: I hear you, although, I don't think I'd call the draft that lands on the editor's desk a first draft, it certainly isn't the final. Somewhere in the middle, I think.