When Your Rough Draft is Really Rough
The Truth About My Rough Draft
Friday night, I wrote 3,560 words and finished my second book. The book is done at 85,600 words. And it’s shit.
- I have place holder names for about 35 characters –from Alice to Zed (why do I even need that many named background characters?)
- I have stupid tactics and plot holes a mile wide.
- I have dropped side plots and disappearing-reappearing characters.
- It’s right around my target word count–but I’m used to cutting 1/3rd of my story to tighten up my babbling writing. There’s nowhere to cut
- My denouement – that falling action after the climax of the book? Mine’s maybe 200 words. That’s gonna need work.
I had to finish the book though. Book 1 is with an editor and the best thing for me was to wrap it up before I got lost in the rounds of revision, so I pushed hard and got it done. Having it done didn’t stop me from feeling embarrassed about the state of the draft, though.
I was talking to my sister, (also known as my alpha-reader, the best way for “me” to read what I’ve written without being the one to have written it), on Tuesday about ongoing discussions with my editor over my artistic vision. My lovely sister was cheering me up by complimenting my writing and letting me know how much better I’ve gotten over the years she’s been reading drafts of book 1.
Reluctantly, I tell her that’s because she hasn’t seen the nightmare that is book 2.
You know what my sister says? Exactly what I needed to hear today.
“It’s a process, not an assembly line.”
She says I just need to clean it up for a month or so and it’ll be fine.
Writing is an Art
When my sister reminded me that writing is a process, not just a formula, I remembered exactly why I count my rough draft as I do.
I start off numbering my Rough Draft as ‘Draft #0’. My rough draft doesn’t even count as an integer – it’s not “a thing complete within itself”.
My first step is to turn that spew of words into something coherent and legible, before I can even think about plot revisions.
Most books on writing and many authors out there agree–rough drafts are shitty. They’re the necessary evil you’ve got to get out on paper so you can find the REAL story and discover what you were actually trying to say all along. Sure, there are those authors who crank out saleable first drafts that only need a bit of copy-editing, but those authors are few and far between.
I now know that expecting my second book to be better than the rough draft of my first book was a vain hope.
The writers and writing books agree, every book is different and requires different things of you.
I can only hope that the lessons I’ve learned on book 1 make polishing book 2 into something I’m proud to share a faster process.
I’m not counting on it, there are so many writing mistakes out there I’ve yet to make.
Count Your Successes
And this I when I remember that my rough draft of book 1 took me 3 false starts and 10 months to write. This one took me 1 false start and 2.5 months to write.
I set a goal to write 10,000 words on that story before the 25th and I beat that by 5 days.
I set a goal to finish that rough draft by March. It’s pretty clear that goal was reached.
I was going to write a big “100th Post!” thing, but then my 100th post ended up being my announcement of finishing my 2nd book. I think that’s a better post than anything I could have written. This is 101st.
Maybe I am making progress.