It’s Just a First Draft, Part 2

Yesterday I passed 40,000 words on my work-in-progress! Yay! And yet this means I am in the dreaded middle of the story, where I’m slogging through to get to the climax. In any case, I have more thoughts on first drafts now that I’m more than halfway to my goal. My thoughts after 15,000 words can be found here.

It’s ok to have a soggy middle. We hate it in real life, so why would it be any different in writing? I’ve been trying for three years to get rid of the “baby fat” my daughter left me. I’m about to declare it a lost cause because I’m not willing to put in the diet and/or exercise necessary to eliminate it completely. I will not have the same attitude with my novel, though. I will put in the work to make it shine. The first draft just isn’t the time to worry about it.

It’s ok to ramble. I don’t know if you can tell from my blog posts–I do edit them down before I publish–but if you asked my husband, he’d tell you I take forever to tell a story. I have to give every little side detail. I do this in my first drafts, too. But I think it’s a good thing there. That way when I go back in to revise, I can cull out the extraneous and pare it down to the most impactful details.

It’s ok if the twist doesn’t work yet. For this project, I am attempting to conceal two two major pieces of information until about two-thirds of the way through the book. It’s quite challenging to give hints and/or try to mislead readers without it coming across as a trick. (See this post for my thoughts on twists.) But to be honest, I don’t think it’s possible to perfectly plant a twist in a first draft. There are too many unknown variables while you’re drafting. It will only be after I’ve gotten through to the end that I know where the clues must be hidden to achieve the right balance.

It’s ok to write a scene you know you’ll cut later. Sometimes you just have to get the words out, even when you know you’re going to delete them later. It’s part of the process of filling out the story. And who knows? Maybe parts of that scene can be included somewhere else.

It’s ok if you notice something is missing. If it’s a scene that could be inserted, I’ll go back and write it, but I’m thinking more about a particular plot point with this statement. I have in mind something that should have happened earlier, but I can’t worry about it now. If I go back and try to revise it now, I’ll stall on moving forward. For me, it’s best to make a note of it and plan to fix it in revisions.

It’s ok to repeat things. I must have my MC explaining the same thing to four different characters in four different scenes. I know I’ll either have to cut some of those or find new ways to reveal the information so those characters are in the know, but it’s fine at this point just to have a placeholder for “x discovers MC’s motivations.”

It’s ok to tell. Oh wait. I already used this one in the previous post. Well, it deserves another reminder. It’s become ingrained for me to think “I need to show this instead of tell it” while I’m writing. But if I spent the time to show every character emotion and interaction during the first draft, I’d never get in my daily word counts. Also, it would probably be a lot harder for me to revise if I invested that much energy in my first draft. I’d rather camp out on a particular scene when I already know where it’s leading.

Well, it looks like this is turning into another series. We’ll see if I still have more thoughts when I get to the end. Until then …

12 thoughts on “It’s Just a First Draft, Part 2”

    1. Absolutely! I always end up cutting out what’s repetitious/unnecessary, but there are many other areas where I need to add detail and, as mentioned above, show instead of tell, which almost always takes more words. Good luck!

  1. Great post! Here’s one thing I constantly tell myself. It’s NOT okay to stop at this point. Even if I just read that the market’s over-saturated, or I’m convinced my story will never sell, or I think the pacing is too slow, I remind myself every day that I have to keep going and finish!

    1. That is an excellent reminder. I also have to remind myself of that during the querying process. If I give up on any project too soon, I’ll only wonder if I should have done more. And the beauty of a first draft is that you have the opportunity to craft it into something so spectacular agents won’t be able to turn it down no matter how saturated the market is :).

  2. What baby fat? You look great and I know you exercise and are careful with diet. Congrats on getting to 40,000 words. Can’t wait to read this one.

  3. Love all of these thoughts~ they are so true! I especially love “it’s okay if the twist doesn’t work yet.” I’m having a challenging time with my latest project in that department, and this was a nice reminder to just keep at it 🙂

  4. Yay for you, Michelle!

    I got stuck in the dreaded soggy middle of my third MG novel last spring. So I took the entire summer away from it (and did lots of other writing, including poetry). Then I went back to it in September, feeling refreshed, and I’ve written more than 10,000 words in a month. That’s a lot for me. I’m determined to get through this rough draft by November.

    1. Taking a break is often a good way to figure out what comes next. Unfortunately for me, if I do that, I have a really hard time getting back to it. I’m better off slogging through, taking a break after the draft is finished, and then figuring out how to fix it. But that’s just me. Good luck finishing your draft!

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