Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The First Draft

It is a miracle, but I think I am going to beat my deadline by a week and get this first draft done by Friday.

Yep, that's right. It only took me 7 MONTHS to finish it. I know, I'm speedy.

I've realized some things about my first drafts that I thought I'd share.

1. The beginnings are always way better than the endings. This is because I am a compulsive revisor, so while the end is a true first draft the parts before have all been tinkered with and the beginning has been revised a lot.

2. My first drafts are always short. This one will only be about 30,000 words. This isn't too horrible because I write middle grade, but I know that the revision process will bump it up to about 40,000. I tend to write my stories with sparse detail and fill in the blanks later.

3. When I finish a first draft my first instinct is to trash the whole thing and start over. The idea of revising and rewriting is really overwhelming. A part of me (well most of me actually) just wants to start something new and never look at that mess again. Right now I have a shiny new idea that I can't wait to start on, so that doesn't help.

But I will get this one done! I plan to get the revision finished by the end of the summer (and get a good chunk of the shiny new story written too.) I don't know if this goal is reasonable with the kids being home all day, but I'm going to try.

What do your first drafts look like? Are they long or short? Messy or clean? Are you excited or terrified to dig into revisions?

28 comments:

Catherine Denton said...

Mine are sparse like yours and messy. I'm usually excited about digging into revisions until I actually sit down to do it. Then I have to plug away--sometimes only a page a day if it's too painful.

Kristi Faith said...

Mine are messy and yup, I do tend to revise my beginnings to death while I'm still writing the rest of it. Although I think mine are generally too skinny too. :0)

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

I'm SO with you on #1 and #3, but I WISH I could be like you on #2. I always run long. Word count is NOT my friend. :)

Adam Heine said...

I'm like you in that I revise as I go, and I'm slow (though a little faster than 30k words in 7 months...I think).

But I plan, so my drafts end up being only slightly longer than necessary and relatively clean. I hate the idea of revisions until I make A Plan, then I love them.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Great post. Well done with your speedy writing.
My first drafts are long and brimming with over-wordiness!

KarenG said...

Congrats on finishing your first draft! That's a place I love to be, so I guess you could say I'm excited. Mine are short and messy, and take a LOT of work to turn into something readable. Actually I have one right now sitting on a shelf waiting for me to dig into it.

Joanne Fritz said...

Wow, Natalie, good for you for finishing your first draft ahead of schedule.

I'm still working on the rough draft of my first novel (also middle-grade)and it's been, um, over a year and a half. I got stuck twice and stopped for a while each time. Since January, I've plugged away at a steady 1000 words a week. (I'm definitely not a 1000- word-a-day person.) So 7 months does seem speedy to me.

Yes, my first draft is too short and I will need to go back and add details to bring it to life. And yes, I've already revised the heck out of the beginning. I'll bet most writers do. If you don't grab the editor or agent with that first page, it doesn't matter what the rest is like.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I love revision. I'm afraid of starting new things.

And I can't wait to see this!!

Rebecca L Sutton said...

Woohoo! Congrats on closing in on that finish line. I should be there very soon myself. I love the feeling of completing a first draft since it means the story is out in the world and the rest is fine tuning.

Thanks for sharing soe thoughts on your writing process. It's always so fun to learn about fellow writers. Especially since I'm about to embark on writing my first MG this summer.

Good luck! Can't wait to hear more about it.

Diane said...

Great progress. Yeah!!! :O)

Trisha Leaver said...

Congrats on beating your deadline. Looks like your 1000 word a day challenge worked well!

My first drafts, as you well know, are wordy and in need of massive red pen. When I am done, my final drafts usually come within 3,000-5,000 of my intended goal, which for me is somwhere in the 75,000 range.

kathrynjankowski said...

Hooray for beating deadlines!
Per #3: Cynthia Leitich Smith swears by this. I can't imagine writing a draft and then deleting the whole thing, but it certainly works for her.
;-)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Congratulations!


I hate first drafts. I love doing the revisions. Good thing since they take long to do than the first draft. :D

Aubrie said...

Congrats on nearing the end of your first draft! My beginnings are always better than the endings, too! I revise as I go.

Heather Sunseri said...

Awesome, Natalie. My first drafts are full of too many adverbs, the words "just" and "so", and other unnecessary words. The length doesn't change much, but the story sure does between first draft and later drafts.

Kristin said...

Congrats, Natalie! I'm a slow first drafter, too. Because I'm a compulsive reviser. I cannot leave the beginning alone to work on the end! I keep coming up with more and more sparklies and have to go back and edit accordingly.

Good luck to us both working while the kids are home. The upswing is, we can stay up a little later and hopefully sleep in! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I always have to cut after first drafts - but I was much, much better on this one. I'm learning!! :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Yay!!! Congrats. :-)

My first drafts are usually messy plot-wise, not sentence-wise because I'm constantly rereading and tinkering. However, I usually have messy threads and stuff. I hope you finish on time!

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I am so excited (and anxious!) to get to the revision bit of all this. I am six months in on my first draft, 47k words. The end seems so near and so far.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I did trash my whole first draft, and right now I am slow slow slow on my rewrite. I'm a word tinkerer, too.

Jackee said...

Well, congrats! Way to be done--a week early at that. My endings on first drafts are always weak sauce too. I rush them. Oddly though, it's the beginning that gets the most rewrites, even if they are better than the ending. Hmm... maybe I need to work on that....

Deb said...

First off, Natalie, CONGRATS! Second, I'm exactly like you...especially on number three, yes yes yes on not wanting to look at that mess again. And when I get back to it I read the begining which (like yours) had some revision-I will read that, thinking okay, not too bad, I can revise this...then, then I reach the abyss of the middle-end, end-end and think I cant' so this..sob.

paulgreci said...

Congrats! You are just powering through. Great momentum for the summer!

My first drafts are often a little on the sparse side, but it does depend on the story and how much I know and how much I can see in my head (visualize) as I write. Usually, I love revising/rewriting them. Sometimes I do some editing as I go just because I often have to reread what I've written to keep the story the most alive in my head that it can possibly be.

Lisa said...

I hate first drafts! Mine are a mess. I like revising. I like the tinkering revisions though, not the massive overhauls, which is, you know, rewriting. I like trying to make the sentences sound pretty. That's my favorite part but it also happens to be the very, very last step so it seems until forever that I get to it! I'm hoping to have my shiny new WIP done by the end of summer too (first draft, of course). But I'm stuck right now in revisions of another WIP. Boo. It's all uphill on that one because, like you, I'm all about beginnings!

Sarah Skilton said...

Congratulations! That's a huge accomplishment and you should be proud :)

I'm usually pretty worn out after finishing a first draft, and I put it aside for awhile so I don't have to think about it. The urge to revise is too strong, but I don't have any perspective on it anymore so I need the time off.

Like you, I tend to have stronger beginnings since I've been finessing them just about each time I open the file, so then I've got to fix up the ending to match the quality.

DL Hammons said...

My first drafts come in long. I'm an outliner, so the editing is more about cutting down on the unnecessary words and passive voice...which I'm doing right now! *Sigh*

Congrats on finishing your first draft!!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

You've seen all my drafts. You know what they used to look like. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I have something on my blog for you. :)