Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

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r louis scott
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by r louis scott » May 30th, 2010, 1:09 pm

I'm not one of those people that write in a stream of consciousness and then return to fix basic issues later. No, while you kids are plowing your fields with your new-fangled tractors, I plod along behind my ox. Just one ox, not a team of oxen. A team of oxen would be too fast a means to make progress. I work on a row of letters, turning them over carefully, sometimes stopping to let my ox answer the call of nature. I've been told that my first drafts are highly polished and beta readers ask me when I'm going to get published (if only they read Nathan's blog).

When I work at editing my draft it is to focus on the content and the story line. For example, right now I am trying to cut my first three chapters down to the length of two in order to get to the meat of the story sooner. I haven't had any complaints from readers, mind you, but should an agent ask for 50 pages I worry that they will lose interest.

So to answer the question, my first draft isn't very crappy at all, but it takes me forever to produce it.

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dios4vida
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by dios4vida » May 30th, 2010, 9:41 pm

Oh, heavens! I don't want to even think about some of my past writing...

My first draft of my first novel was horrendously unreadable. Purple prose, reflexive writing, pages upon pages of needless words strung together in an utterly sophomoric way.

My first draft of my second novel was much better, though still not publishable in the least. I was quite proud to see my critique partner's comments on this one compared to that last one (of course, I had to cut nearly 10,000 words straight off the bat before she ever got it). She was impressed with my improvements (yay!) but there's still quite a lot of ink on the pages.

I'm in the middle of the first draft of my third novel, and parts of it are really good (so far). Other parts I already know are useless and getting scrapped in the future, but I'm one of those writers who can't edit too much in the beginning. I'll spend the next year laboring over the first 50 pages instead of finishing the thing and then editing.

So improvements are being noticed as I learn the craft, but still...I'd rather not have anyone read these first drafts. Any of them. Ever.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Casey Lybrand
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by Casey Lybrand » May 31st, 2010, 12:38 pm

My WIP is pretty unreadable at this point, with lots of work to do on the next draft. (And the next, and the draft after that . . .)
wildheart wrote:I don't care how bad a first draft is because for me its just the most bare essentials of the story. A first draft is not meant to be the final draft. So any mistakes are welcome as you go along. For me my first drafts are about finding my themes, the soul of my story. The second draft is about making it shine. Well, until I let others read it. Then it will get ripped to shreds again.

In short, yes, my first draft sucks. But it doesn't matter because in the end I know things will come together.
wildheart, this is really close to my approach as well. I don't even think about mistakes at this point. I'm focused on the plot and on finding my theme.

Something I do notice is when I tell instead of show, but I do it anyway sometimes. If plot is flowing, I'll throw in an adjective or adverb so I can keep going. I highlight those bits right away -- anything that isn't working, really -- so I know in the second draft what to rewrite. Or in the case of telling instead of showing, what to write in the first place. But I can edit this thing!

My first "novel" (in the drawer) -- I'm not even sure it is a novel. I nicknamed it "the novel with no soul". It's more of a situation with some action and dialog. This WIP is novel number four. One of the others in the drawer has a concept that might be workable, but it would need to be rewritten from scratch. This is the first first draft I feel I can work into a polished manuscript.

paravil
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by paravil » June 3rd, 2010, 12:51 pm

Adverbs and adjectives galore?
I did one whole read-through only looking for and removing adverbs. Cut a few hundred words.

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wilderness
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by wilderness » June 3rd, 2010, 2:29 pm

wildheart wrote:I don't care how bad a first draft is because for me its just the most bare essentials of the story. A first draft is not meant to be the final draft. So any mistakes are welcome as you go along. For me my first drafts are about finding my themes, the soul of my story. The second draft is about making it shine. Well, until I let others read it. Then it will get ripped to shreds again.

In short, yes, my first draft sucks. But it doesn't matter because in the end I know things will come together.
Agree. I'm still on my first draft, but I'm just trying to get the plot down on [electronic] paper. I know I will have all sorts of genius revisions...OK, I hope :)

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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by wildheart » June 4th, 2010, 11:18 pm

Quill wrote:
wildheart wrote:The second draft is about making it shine.
Lol. That's what my sixth and seventh draft are for. My second is about making it readable and begin to make sense.
How long do you spend on each draft? Because my second draft is going to last at minimum four months. I'll be focusing on many areas, not just one or two things.Then it will go to critique partners and beta readers. Then possibly another draft. Then maybe submission. But that will be if things go well.

Guess I just wanted to make sure you knew that I'm not really that fast of a writer, and that my revision will be A LOT of work. I know I was pretty vauge in that other post.
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by wildheart » June 4th, 2010, 11:22 pm

Casey Lybrand wrote:My WIP is pretty unreadable at this point, with lots of work to do on the next draft. (And the next, and the draft after that . . .)
wildheart wrote:I don't care how bad a first draft is because for me its just the most bare essentials of the story. A first draft is not meant to be the final draft. So any mistakes are welcome as you go along. For me my first drafts are about finding my themes, the soul of my story. The second draft is about making it shine. Well, until I let others read it. Then it will get ripped to shreds again.

In short, yes, my first draft sucks. But it doesn't matter because in the end I know things will come together.
wildheart, this is really close to my approach as well. I don't even think about mistakes at this point. I'm focused on the plot and on finding my theme.

Something I do notice is when I tell instead of show, but I do it anyway sometimes. If plot is flowing, I'll throw in an adjective or adverb so I can keep going. I highlight those bits right away -- anything that isn't working, really -- so I know in the second draft what to rewrite. Or in the case of telling instead of showing, what to write in the first place. But I can edit this thing!

My first "novel" (in the drawer) -- I'm not even sure it is a novel. I nicknamed it "the novel with no soul". It's more of a situation with some action and dialog. This WIP is novel number four. One of the others in the drawer has a concept that might be workable, but it would need to be rewritten from scratch. This is the first first draft I feel I can work into a polished manuscript.

Yup, I get really annoyed sometimes when I tell instead of show in a first draft. But I am usually afraid I'll miss an important part of the story if I stop to think of better words so I keep going. I would rather have the plot straightened out than worry about using the wrong words.

I have a novel with no soul as well. But I'm giving myself a break for that one because I was about ten years old when I wrote it. Can't really expect anything amazing out of that can I? Although...looking back I do see some elements I might try and bring up in another novel.

Not sure if the novel I am currently writing will be any good. I still want to submit to agents because that is one thing I have not done yet. I won't feel like a real writer until I start getting those rejections!
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by wildheart » June 4th, 2010, 11:26 pm

wilderness wrote:
wildheart wrote:I don't care how bad a first draft is because for me its just the most bare essentials of the story. A first draft is not meant to be the final draft. So any mistakes are welcome as you go along. For me my first drafts are about finding my themes, the soul of my story. The second draft is about making it shine. Well, until I let others read it. Then it will get ripped to shreds again.

In short, yes, my first draft sucks. But it doesn't matter because in the end I know things will come together.
Agree. I'm still on my first draft, but I'm just trying to get the plot down on [electronic] paper. I know I will have all sorts of genius revisions...OK, I hope :)
Tell me about it! I am praying desperately I can make all of this a trillion times better in the revision. I hope it becomes I real story, something I can be proud of. Right now I am terrified every time my husband tries to read it. Seriously, if anyone saw this right now...I think I would die. And plot is one of the most important things to me when I am working on a first draft. That and characters and finding my themes. Really, first drafts are all about discovery for me.
http://wildheart90.blogspot.com/
A mother. A writer. A dreamer.

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Casey Lybrand
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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by Casey Lybrand » June 5th, 2010, 12:09 am

I thought of this thread today while I was writing. I wrote a lot of words for one day (for me), and while I was writing I would sometimes pause and think, "Oh no, what if this is no good at all?" As, you know, usual.

Normally, I just ignore that thought and keep writing. But it's great to be able to think instead, "If it's crappy, well, it must be a first draft!" I love this thread title. (And maybe a bit of it is not crappy. I wrote fast today, but there were some parts I was really happy with when I reread! But I wouldn't have gotten those parts out if I was too worried about quality at this point.)

wildheart:

I see those first attempts at novels as learning experiences primarily, but I also feel I can get some concepts out of them. Part of the learning.

And be proud of your 10-year-old self's novel! Kid novels are awesome, just for having been written. (I was not 10 when I wrote my first learner novel. Closer to 30.)

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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by Wolfe3141 » June 5th, 2010, 10:47 am

LOL ... My first draft was quoted as being comparable to riding a horse in a nice meadow and then out of no where you are pummeling down a cliff and before you know it you and your horse are now at the bottom with no idea of how you got there.

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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by DMcWild » June 7th, 2010, 3:23 pm

Funny mine must have been pretty good because I sent out my first chapter to three agents with out a query letter. I really didn't know what I was doing back then but two of the three wanted to rep me. I signed with a large publisher who aquired the novel by auction in a three book deal. I guess it was during the book signing in New York when fans were lined up outside the store that I finally woke up. Yes I was dreaming, but if I didn't dream I wouldn't be here.

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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by KLBrady » June 7th, 2010, 3:42 pm

I recently started reading Bird by Bird and one of the first chapters is titled "Shi*ty First Drafts." According to that chapter, I'm a huge success. I'd make Anne super proud. lol I'm writing my first YA novel and I love the story line. The mechanics, on the other hand, would make my English teacher cry. Lots of grammatical errors. I'm fixing them though. I hope it'll shine up pretty nicely.

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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by sperber » June 7th, 2010, 4:06 pm

How crappy?

My husband knows I'm working on edits when he hears me making barfing noises at the computer.

Yeah, that crappy.

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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by lmitchell » June 7th, 2010, 4:50 pm

Tense shifting, explosions of "justs" and "thats," and garbled useless dialogue tags everywhere. Oh, and absolutely, positively, ridiculously too many adverbs. It looks like an adverb monkey puked all over my first draft--a rabid, psychotic one-eyed adverb monkey.

So sad.

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Re: Okay, be honest…how crappy is your first draft?

Post by L.M. Pruitt » June 7th, 2010, 5:00 pm

My very first finished novel...wow. I don't think I did anything but finish it. I was just thrilled with that. I started writing something along the same lines, decided both were crap, and stopped writing for about...I think two years. Didn't pick up a pen, sit at the computer, nothing. I just read--a lot. And then I got a small tingling of an idea. The tingle kept getting bigger, and the character and plot started becoming more real-life to me. So I sat down and started writing.

The first draft took me about two years, because I was going to school full time, working full time, moved once, evac'd once...you get the idea. But it's pretty damn good. I put it aside for a month, started working on the next novel in the series, and after that one was pretty well underway went back to the first. Spent another six months polishing and tweaking, with a few minor cuts. Back at work on the second novel, hopefully will have that one finished within the month. Between the first draft and the resulting two, I'll have spent about 15 months on it.

So my drafts take a little longer, but overall write better with fewer problems to fix in the rewrites.

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