Don’t trash that crappy first draft!
Oh it may be full of grammatical errors that would send your high school English teachers into hysterics but that’s not reason enough to throw it away. And maybe the plot line may move like a 1920’s Model T going backwards up the crooked mile, still is it truly worth destroying? And perhaps most of the characters may be as shallow as a puddle, and probably deserve to be drowned in one, but do not throw that draft away!
Instead I want you read every last word, even if it’s hard as hell to get past the first few pages, keep reading! Do not stop until you’ve read the entire thing.
Why? I hear you ask.
Because, that shitty first draft may be the most important one you ever write.
I’m being serious here folks. And no I’m not going to be going on about how every journey in writing starts with a first draft, or something like that. What I am going to tell you is that first drafts, even the lamest ones, have value.
When I first started writing “The Door”, it was going to be the second book in my Para-Earth series. Mainly because it was going take up exactly where the first book “The Bridge” left off. I thought there was no way I could possibly put another story in between the two, even though I really wanted to focus on the second lead couple (Cassandra Elliott, and Julie Cloudfoot) and their blossoming relationship. My original plan was to develop their growing love in the second book, but things were getting too complicated. Too many characters, too many subplots, I had to scale back. So after writing almost 70,000 words in “The Door”, I said enough and set it aside. Instead, I followed some “bread crumbs” I’d left myself (see my blog entry from January 31st https://akrummenacker.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/follow-the-breadcrumbs/) back in “The Bridge” and found an opening.
I had clearly stated that a month had passed between the climactic battle and the events that happened in the epilogue. I had also sent Julie and Cassie over to the west coast. I had plenty of room for a story in between that would involve just the two of them, as well as leading them back to witness the events that took place during the epilogue of “The Bridge”. Thus, “The Ship” was born.
But even after I finished “The Ship” and published it, I was not ready to back to “The Door”. Instead, a new character had captured my imagination and I began work on “The Vampyre Blogs”, hoping to release it next, before returning to “The Door”.
However, after finishing the first draft of “The Vampyre Blogs” I realized I wanted to release it around Halloween and the time had passed. So I sent it off to my editor for corrections, even though it was a first draft. I know it will go through many more changes, but in the meantime, I needed to get back to “The Door” because it had to come before my vampyre’s first tale. I needed to finish the underlying story arc that was running through my first two books. It’s turn had come and I needed to finish it.
By this time it had been over two years since I last looked at it, so it was with experienced eyes that I pulled it out and started to look at the first few pages. Originally, I thought it would be easy to insert just a few scenes and continue the flow I had started, but it didn’t work out that way.
Thanks to “The Ship” so many plans and ideas had to be scrapped. And my writing style had changed. A number of people told me how much my writing had ‘matured’ and now I could clearly see it for myself. So much had to be changed and rewritten. At times it almost seemed too much.
I began to doubt myself and wondered if I was really up to the challenge. Could I really make this story work? Time and again, I kept running up against ideas that no longer fit, and characters who needed to be removed from the story entirely. I began to question myself and ask, “Should I just trash this and start over from scratch?” But then I’d run across scenes that were perfectly fine and still flowed beautifully with the new stuff I was creating. In fact, it felt like what was I creating now was way better than what I’d originally done. And at the same time, the overall storyline was still following what I had wanted all along. In fact, I’d found ways to improve it.
But I was still running up against obstacles and areas where I just wasn’t sure what to do.
Then by sheer chance, I was scrolling through the new draft which was being built on top of a duplicate file of the original first draft. But I overshot where I had left off and found a scene I had completely forgotten about. Pausing I re-read my words and was taken aback by the power of the scene and the beauty I’d created. This scene HAD to stay, I told myself. Then I began thinking, ‘Are there other scenes like this one I’ve forgotten?’
So I did the unthinkable…
I stopped work on “The Door” and took a few steps back. Instead of writing, I decided to read every word and every page of the original first draft.
It hasn’t been easy at times, but I’ve been unearthing scenes that to me are absolute treasures. I’ve also been cutting and removing other scenes and characters who no longer have any place in this book, but might be good for another story down the road. I’ve saved those sections and preserved them in a separate file folder. Those who’ve been following this blog know I always urge writers to do this. What may not be working in your current book, might be just the thing you need in another one down the road.
As for the scenes I’m keeping, I am breathing a sigh of relief. Some of them are better than I anything I might have tried to replace them with. New ideas and ways to move the story forward are opening up to me. But I still have to finish re-reading that ‘shitty first draft’ before I start writing new scenes.
There are more scenes and ideas I’ve forgotten about, of that I’m sure. I may not want to keep all of them, but I suspect even if I don’t keep any of it, they will give me knew ideas. So don’t give up completely on that first draft. Save it, learn from it, and build from it. You might even want to preserve certain scenes from it.
All stories start with a first draft that can be more than a little rough around the edges. But without a first draft, you can’t begin your story.
Until next time, take care of yourselves my friends, and keep writing.