A Writers Board
A few months ago I was on a writer’s board. It was one of those boards I kind of forgot about.
I was scrolling down the topics when I came upon the subject of first drafts. Curious what the writer had to say I clicked on it and read her piece.
She had just completed the first draft of her first novel and wanted to share her enthusiasm. Her first draft contained roughly 95,000 words. Took over a year to write. A murder/mystery I remember her saying and it was clear she was extremely proud of her achievement.
I scrolled down to the comments where a handful of people congratulated her. Some included smiley faces while others included the always favorite first bump. But it was final comment on the thread that caused me to sit up and take notice.
The commenter didn’t mix words. There were no congratulations, what is it about, etc.. All I saw were two words:
Puzzled by this I read further. After a brief exchange of questions and arguing between the two the writer agreed that her first draft was nothing more than practice. In the end the novel she was so proud of was gone.
I noticed the date and saw that her post and comments were two months old. I sent her a private message and asked if she changed her mind and if she hadn’t could she could retrieve her deleted novel. No, she said. Worst of all she admitted that she regretted her decision. Not wanting to make the situations worse I dropped the subject and unfollowed the site.
I’ve never believed that a masterpiece is written in the first draft but at the same time that doesn’t meant it can’t be found if you look deep enough.
I’ve always said that the first draft is a road trip between the writer and the characters. I’ve always imagined a nice roomy mini-van complete with cooler and snacks. Everyone exchanging ideas and laughing at the mistakes.
Most important: A bond is created.
The first draft has more to do with the characters showing the writer their ways. I’ve learned that the characters we create were never actually created, they were simply waiting for their story to be told.
I’ve also learned that their patience is far better than ours. They are set in their ways and it is up to us to figure them out. But that only happens by way of their patience and understanding.
By the time the first draft is complete a connection is made. The magic of storytelling blossoms in that first draft. That’s why it bothered me so when the writer agreed to delete hers.
The earliest version of my novel, Dempsey’s Grill, was more of a novella than a novel. It came out to roughly 30,000 words but the idea was there. A tiny vision of who these characters would later be.
I can still remember my curiosity growing and before I knew it I had a 110,000 word epic on my hands. Was it ready to be read by a publisher or agent? No way. But the foundation was set and I was able to build.
Which brings me back to the beginning: Why delete your first draft?
I always wanted Dempsey’s Grill to be funny, warm and real. True, the first draft was a tad on the wordy side but the characters and their story was exactly what I had hoped for.
As with any first draft I added way to many subplots and a handful of unrealistic situations but that didn’t matter. The characters were growing and so was I. But most of all I was understanding who they were.
Flat Tires and Dusty Roads
In the end the first draft is all about a crazy road trip. It’s a flat tire with no spare in the middle of Nebraska. It’s a dusty road in the middle of Australia minus a map.
But somehow it works and we all survive and that’s how a story is told.
You’re going to hear a lot of opinions on how to handle your first draft but if you ask me I’d say it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.