I finished my first draft in July. (Could probably call it my second first draft. My first first draft, written in three weeks of NaNo insanity, wasn’t anywhere near a draft.)
Prep For First Draft Read Through
- I took a month off, like they say, to get some distance, see my story as a reader rather than writer.
- I turned my focus to freelance writing: got this website in order. I took some webinars with a fantastic freelance coach. Read fiction craft blogs and books.
- I had my first draft spiral bound at a printing center. I didn’t want to read it on screen because I’m a tweaking addict. I try to perfect language and commas before I’m solid on the story.
- I bought a train ticket–an all-day pass. I could get on or off anywhere and plotted a route that would take me from home and back in about 14 hours. Swiss trains are amazing for that. They run through every valley, over every mountain. Why on a train? No special reason. Call me Sheldon Cooper, I love riding on trains. I wouldn’t be distracted by my kids, my husband, my bullet list of to-do items.
A Rough Start
Up at 5 a.m. and out the door at 5:30. I’m grateful for a partner who understands (or at least puts up with) my quirks. I use up all the coins in my wallet for a local connection to the main station. Realize after I pay for the ticket that I didn’t need to pay for it. My day pass covered the local connection, too.
I check for my first draft three times, thanks to my undiagnosed OCD. Starbucks isn’t opened yet so I grab a baby-sized coffee and yogurt from the bakery. I take my seat on the upper level of the train from Bern to Zermatt (Home of the famous Matterhorn, which I have yet to see).
It smells like a fresh joint. I stir the granola into my yogurt, take a sip of my coffee. Someone’s passed out a few seats ahead. I’m glad I look at him because I see, out of the corner of my eye, that I am on a train on Track 6, not, as I should be, on Track 5.
The bell sounds. I swoop everything up in my arms. My train leaves in one minute. If I don’t make it, I will miss my connection on the Glacier Express, a panoramic train from Zermatt to Chur. Coffee spills over my hands. I step off the wrong train as the doors close.
I run across the platform to hear the bells for departure chime. I stab the button and the doors open. I run up the steps and take a seat. My hands tremble. The train pulls out of the station.
What I learned Reading My First Draft
- Drink coffee before leaving the house!
- Start a notes document for comments that won’t fit in the margins of your text.
- Note the places where you kept reading and places where you were tripped up by something. Don’t try to understand the whys just yet.
- You may start out making extensive notes, but it’s actually okay to just move broadly and quickly.
- My second first draft still isn’t much of a draft.
My First Draft Sucks, Now What
Everyone says to write a terrible first draft. Well, ouch. My Granny would say, that smarts. She’d be right.
Flimsy conflicts. Overly emotional writing. Contradictory character actions. Plot holes like a Michigan highway. Whoa Nelly. I wondered if there was any way to salvage this. I definitely wanted to hide it from my critique group!
I let the draft simmer a few more days. Ideas started bubbling up as questions. What if I change the structure to increase the tension? What if I cut out all the stuff that’s too close to my personal experience? What if I change the relationship between my MC and a side character to cause more trouble? The list got bigger, happy curiosity.
I started getting the itch to work the story again. I’ll probably get rid of a huge chunk of this draft on this next go round, maybe almost all of it. I may even get to call it a second draft.