Monday, April 05, 2010

All first drafts stink, honest


Yesterday I finished reading my first draft.

First drafts are always sh*t though, right? Who said that? Hemingway? Elmore Leonard?

For days now my poor family has been suffering my sighs, exclamations of horror and claims that I’ve been sent to sleep by my own manuscript. But no, that isn’t a bad sign, it’s just the sign of a crappy first draft. I am not a planner; I’m a flyer by the seat of my pantser so I had no idea where I was going. Of course it’s a mess but ‘writing is rewriting’ isn’t it? No-one has to see it until I’ve done some major surgery.

And there were good things. If I try to be fair and not totally panic-stricken the last 180 pages weren’t bad, in fact, I rather enjoyed them, so I must have learned something as I wrote. I had a good idea of the story by then. I noted in those pages that I went in late to scenes and got out early: excellent. The first 280 pages were quite awful and there’s a lot of work to do on them but if I can identify the better scenes, I can remedy the crappier ones. And my dialogue is mostly good even if my narrative stinks.

Okay; deep breath and no more talk of shredders.

14 comments:

SpiralSkies said...

I reckon the business of rewriting and reworking is the biggest eye-openers to new novelists like wot we are. When we start, we just don't imagine that we'll have this mountain of words and that we'll almost have to start again.

You'll whip that WIP into shape though. You will!

Angie said...

I find solace in the fact that even my heroes had to edit and rewrite their masterpieces...makes it all seem more do-able. Sounds like you've got the right attitude and a good ms to work with. YOU CAN DO IT! :)

liz fenwick said...

I've learnt to love rewriting my sh*t first draft. I have also just recently leant I would have saved myself several rewrites if I had knuckled down and done a proper synopsis after the first draft I would have saved myself several further rewrites.

Good luck.
lx

Queenie said...

Well done - another milestone reached. You've got your raw material, now, and for me, editing is the fun part, where you craft and hone your shitty first draft into a fabulous work of art. You know how to do that with other media; you'll work it out with this one.

I'm discovering, with my new WIP, that planning does make life a whole lot easier. However, I don't think I could have planned previous WIPs, as I didn't know enough about how to write, construct, create a novel. I learned by doing it; I think most of us do.

Karen said...

Having something to work with is key - getting that first draft down is a massive acheivement in itself, and it's great that you've identified your strengths. I enjoy editing, because it's productive. Good luck with yours :o)

Fran said...

Yes, I agree with Karen. A first draft is better than no draft at all. It's something solid to work with, and no mean achievement. And you're no doubt doing yourself down. We all do.

Debs said...

I now enjoy editing, although I do also now put together a rough synopsis too.

Congratulations on finishing your first draft, I'm looking forward to finishing mine. Saying that, I'm only at 14,500 words and still have a hell of a way to go before I get to that point.

HelenMHunt said...

I've been through several drafts and I still feel like that! The important thing is that you've gone through and identified where the problems are. Now, you can fix them.

Cathy said...

Editing is actually very satisfying, I find. You've got over the biggest hurdle (for both you and I) of just getting the story down, now you can perfect it. But that is something which can't be rushed.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Having recently finished my first draft and looking forward to reading it through, I'm expecting to say the same thing!

CJ xx

Susie Vereker said...

Congrats, JJ.
Glad you are doing so well. Have been thinking about you.

Suzanne Jones said...

Someone once said that writing is rewriting and the more I learn the more I believe them.

L-Plate Author said...

I'm a bit late to this, JJ, but I always find out that the first hundred or so pages I'm all tell as I get to know the characters and their stories. It's only halfway through that a real story comes out.

You can always make something better once there is something to work with. How many people can say they wrote three chapters? Lots. How many can say they wrote over 1000k??? x

JJ Beattie said...

You are all lovely. Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. They really do help.

I'm away next week and I'm going to try and get a plan down for everything that needs to change so that I will know where I'm going next.

Fingers crossed.