Wednesday, 12 June 2013

On First Drafts

A few weeks ago I finished the first draft for my current WIP. It was ugly. It was painful. But--you know what?--it was finished! And it felt GOOD.

I had racked up a healthy word count, characters were taking shape nicely and it FINALLY felt like I was getting a good grip on the story. But with the ugly, painful, finished first draft came the first round of self-edits.

I love to edit. And, folks, I don't take prisoners. Never have, never will. Not even with myself. ESPECIALLY not with myself. And 'no prisoners' in THIS instance meant ripping out half the words, rehashing plot issues and deleting several characters.
Guys, it was hard. I watched as my word count shrivel like a salted-up snail. I required comforting. So I had tea and biscuits... and when that didn't work, wine and cake. I genuinely thought those plot lines were interesting. I found the scenes moving. The characters were ones that I could bonded with and related to. But, in the end, they were slaughtered pigs on the floor of a bacon factor.

I'll repeat that: it. was. hard.

But it was also liberating.

Some parts just weren't working. The plot was too... much. It was convoluted when it should be uncomplicated. I was indulgent when I needed to be efficient. The manuscript was crowded with unnecessary characters.

I unholstered my gun and said, "This town ain't big enough for [all of yous]."

Pow! Pow! Pow!

*blow smoke off the gun barrel*

Or, let me use a more genteel analogy.

As a gardener to a bush, I pruned. And just as a newly pruned bush looks a bit worse for the wear... so, in some ways, does my manuscript. Large CHUNKS of my manuscript were suddenly missing and I was thrown back into that place where I wasn't finished with a first draft, because I'm now re-writing and re-growing the story again.

I'm calling it First Draft 2.0.

(And I've set a completion date of 20 July for First Draft 2.0. I'll let you know how it goes and maybe tell you a little more about the story then or shortly after.)

To any one out there hacking away at a manuscript... when your word count goes from 70k to 35k over the course of a week... do not despair. You haven't LOST anything. You are gaining new opportunities.

Any painful edits out there? I know I can't be alone.

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