The first draft. The place where all novels begin, the backbone of every story, the pages upon which your precious gems are nurtured and purified. And the one part of your story that will never see the light of day.
I’ve been writing long enough to know that your first draft–no matter how well written–is a work in progress. Things that seemed like a good idea at first get axed, certain plot points need enhancement or revision, and lets not forget the long line of people–from friends to publishers–whose ‘advice’ will impact the formation of your story. Let’s face it; the book you end up with isn’t the one you started writing.
The most important function of a first draft is the crafting of your story by building the backbone. You’re not going to get it right the first time and there’ll probably be sections that you’ll want to rewrite–sometimes completely. In the first draft of the novel that I’m currently seeking representation for I ran into two problems; I’d repeated an event three times in the story–which didn’t further the plot–and I’d failed to establish the relevance of something the character spoke of in the second chapter.
I solved these problems by substituting the former with the latter. It require that I rewrite certain sections as well as adding two to three new chapters to make everything relevant, but in the end it worked. More importantly, it improved the overall story by leaps and bounds.
Even the portions of your manuscript that work well often need improvement. The novel that I previously mentioned was written in first person which I found challenging as if was my first attempt. Initially, it sounded like one of those reading books for beginners. It took a great deal of effort–and at least two revisions–before I had it formatted into an acceptable character voice. I can’t manage the sidesplitting laughter and crack shot wit of Ilona Andrews, but dry humor I can do just fine.
I don’t make a habit of looking back on my first drafts, but even I can’t negate their importance. Rare is the idea that sprouts forth fully formed in all its splendid glory. Usually, long hours, much hair wringing, and a great deal of stress is involved before you get anywhere close to perfection. So give your messily written, heavily scratched out, bent pages their due. Because without them, your story wouldn’t exist.
Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no claim to it.