Is Your First Draft Any Good?

17 01 2018

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My writer’s group Noble Fusion met and critiqued the first draft of “Lampreyhead”. I have met professional authors. Noble Fusion itself has professional authors and editors. It does not matter how many words you’ve ever published. First drafts always suck. How do you know when you’re on to writing a decent book?

While writing the draft, an author can tell where that draft is weak. Usually the draft is a sequence of set pieces where the characters lack agency. The author will know where the plot’s been fudged, or that the magic system isn’t quite right, or that emotional beats aren’t given enough room to breathe.

The book is on the right track when: 1) your group is enthused, and 2) the critiques hold no surprises.

I knew this draft was rushed and lacked detail. I suspected the characters needed more depth. But I did not panic.

Again, as fellow Noble Fusion member Dr. Lawrence Schoen told me:

“I’ve done novel breaks at Taos Toolbox with Walter Jon Williams. Professional authors have presented drafts that were utterly unworkable. This draft is workable.”

On to the critique! Sally Wiener Grotta said of this draft: “The sentence structure is repetitive. It needs to vary structure to build tension. There is a lot of passive voice. Use active verbs.”

Barbara E. Hill was pretty thorough with comments like “We just don’t understand this universe” and “How do the characters feel about each other”, which…yeah. Lots more detail needed.

So I’d have preferred to have written something brilliant right off, but that’s not how reality works.

Today and tomorrow I am working with the cover artist to tweak the fonts. I am waiting for the marketing copy from CreateSpace. I am revising the draft with the goal of sending a draft to beta readers by the end of January.

Would you like to be a beta reader?

What problems do you run into on your first draft? Who does your proofreading?

 


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5 responses

17 01 2018
MishaBurnett

With very few exceptions, my first draft is my last draft. I will go back and fix typos and fiddle with wording that’s unclear, but 90% of my published work is just what I sat down and originally typed.

18 01 2018
timwburke

Do you ruminate and edit in your head prior to writing?

18 01 2018
MishaBurnett

Yes, at great detail. I call it “measure twice,cut once” composition. I do my rewriting mentally, I talk it out loud, walk around and play with ideas, think it through while I’m playing video games, do a lot of prep work. But once I’m ready to get the words down, it all pretty much comes out in the final form.

18 01 2018
timwburke

Do you follow any templates?

18 01 2018
MishaBurnett

No, I just kind of follow the rhythm in my head. I do write to music, constantly, and I choose the tempo of the music to fit the emotional content of what I am working on.

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