Thursday, June 10, 2010

First Drafts

I was recently looking through the forums on agent Nathan Bransford's blog, and one of the topics I came across asked the question of the quality of a first draft. Basically, the original poster said that their first draft is crap, in their opinion, and wanted to find out how other writers felt about their first drafts. Most of the respondents said that their first draft was crap as well; sometimes it was crap even 5+ drafts later. There were a few, myself included, who thought that their first draft was better than crap. Not perfect, but not crap.

Laurell K. Hamilton has mentioned the 80/20 rule (and for those of you have seen How Did I Get Married, this is not the same rule), where about 80% of a first draft is crap and the other 20% is golden. The only problem with that is that you have to write the whole damn thing before you find out which is which. She's said that with each book, the percentages have shifted, so that now it's more 30/70, but again, you have to write the whole damn thing. For a lot of writers, that's where the problem lies, in the finishing.

At this stage, I'm so invested in the characters, that it's not a matter of not finishing. It's more a matter of exactly when will I be finishing. Shades of Desire hit a massive snag, mainly because I wrote something in that seemed like a good idea. It turned out it wasn't, but it's written in to so many scenes, that just the sheer thought of the rewrites put up the writer's wall. I still wrote, hence the start of New Moon Rising, but I just couldn't make it past that wall I'd thrown up. Six months of the wall, which sounds like a very long time, but that's also six months of a full time job and life in general, so really, it's not that long.

And then finally, finally, FINALLY, one random Tuesday at work, the clouds lifted, the seas parted, and other miracles happened. Not really, although it did stop raining for a little bit. The main thing that happened was that I was finally able to see my way through the wall. Not over it, because then it would still be there, waiting to knock me on my ass, but through it, demolishing it. And really, it was so stupidly simple that I have no idea why I didn't think of it before.

Back to first drafts. Some writers knock out a first draft in seemingly record time, then go back and flesh out the bare bones of the story they've got. Some research each detail, spending months on plot and setting and every aspect, so that when they finally sit down to write, it only takes a few months of actual writing, even if it took years of preparation. There are a million different ways to get that first draft out, and so there's a million different levels of how good that first draft is. In the end, it doesn't matter if it's crap or if a miracle happened and every last word of that first draft is perfect. The point is that you get it out, that the story gets told.

But if you ever manage to figure out how to write a perfect first draft, let me know. So I can hunt you down and beat you with the latest draft of whatever I'm working on.

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