Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lousy First Drafts

Several years back I wrote 45,000 words of a novel and then tossed the white flag in the air. I’d written myself into a ditch and had no idea of how to fix it. So I put the manuscript away and worked on easier ones until life calmed down.

A year ago I had lots of time and an entire house to myself all day long, so I hauled out the pages. I made piles, shuffled pages, made new piles, discarded some scenes and characters, and then made an outline. Well, not an outline, more a summary of each finished chapter, and notes for future ones. I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants than a plotting writer. Fits with my life; I know what I’m fixing for dinner tonight, but I have no idea of what’s coming up next week, even if it’s my anniversary. Which now that I think about it…

So I finished that manuscript, and pulled another one from the cupboard. Another 45,000 words written two years ago in longhand on notebook paper, waiting to be keyboarded and finished. It doesn’t have the huge cast of characters the other book has, and I was sure my first-draft writing had improved over the years so I would have an easier time with this one.

But what did I find? Two different opening scenes. Many spots where I’d left a blank for a word that escaped me. Notes: Could this door rattle on its hinges? Were hinges even in use then?

Apparently first drafts don’t get easier. Good thing I love to write.


  1. I can't even read what I write longhand! All first drafts are lousy, I hear. (But I but yours are way less lousy than mine.) Somebody--can't think who--once said, "I can fix anything once it's written, but before it's on the page there's nothing to fix," or something like that. Sounds right to me. Have fun!

  2. I can't even do a complete first draft. My OCB makes me go back to whatever I wrote yesterday and tinker with it before I can write anything new. Happy anniversary!

  3. It's good that you have first drafts lying around... And you have a few completed manuscripts too! Happy untangling. And anniversary.