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Old 01-08-2013, 03:01 AM   #1
celticroots
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It's so...bad

I am reading over the first draft of my novel before editing. Oh.My.God. It's so bad! I can't believe there was a time when I liked what I wrote. I like the story, and have found ways to smooth it out in draft 2.

There have been some good parts. But I've had to look through layers of suck to see them. That month off has given me a fresh perspective.

What did you guys do when you thought your first draft was bad?
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:04 AM   #2
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Throw it out, start new, throw that out, start new again, throw that out...
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:09 AM   #3
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Rewrite...and again... And again, write something new and then rewrote again.

King says your first draft is written for you to know the story, the next drafts are for the reader...
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:16 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by celticroots View Post

What did you guys do when you thought your first draft was bad?
Beat the crap out of it until it resembles something decent. I think you have to accept that the first draft is shocking, and work from there.

Which is better.... a sucky 1st draft, or a non-existent 1st draft? At least you can do something with the sucky draft.

I cringed (and still do) when I look back at my first drafts, I will never show them to anyone.
Best of luck with the re-write
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:26 AM   #5
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One of the downfalls of word processing is cut and paste, patching, rearranging, letting the lousy first draft dictate the next. Print the poor thing out, make some helpful scribbles on it, rewrite it from scratch and then give the first draft file on your computer a merciful burial in the recycle bin. It's just a draft, not a monument.

The only draft that lingers around my keyboard is the most recent one.
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:46 AM   #6
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Quote:
What did you guys do when you thought your first draft was bad?
Edit. Edit again. Rinse, repeat.

Quote:
I like the story, and have found ways to smooth it out in draft 2.
See what I mean?
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:55 AM   #7
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Eighteen rewrites. Now I'm feeling pretty good about it.

I'm actually a much better REwriter than I am a writer.
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:57 AM   #8
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I'm gonna strike a slightly different note. Move on to something else if you're completely despairing of this work. That feeling might keep you from writing, which is counterproductive.

Come back to this WIP in a few months and see if you still think it's awful. Maybe you'll find the merits in it.
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:14 AM   #9
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revise the shit out of it.
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:34 AM   #10
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It depends. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to write the entire thing out to see that there's nothing there. Some flaws can't really be revised. For instance, the first ever attempt I made to write a novel was an utter disaster. Cliched, stereotypical characters, an unbearable mass of melodrama, a plot so weak it should be put on life support (or rather, taken off of it), etc.

That said, if you really believe in your story, you can always start from scratch.
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:44 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Mehl View Post
One of the downfalls of word processing is cut and paste, patching, rearranging, letting the lousy first draft dictate the next. Print the poor thing out, make some helpful scribbles on it, rewrite it from scratch and then give the first draft file on your computer a merciful burial in the recycle bin. It's just a draft, not a monument.

The only draft that lingers around my keyboard is the most recent one.
That is such great advice. I like to keep my drafts though, because I like to see the progression.

OP, I completely feel you about the crap first drafts.
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:45 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spell-it-out View Post
Beat the crap out of it until it resembles something decent.
Ditto.

First drafts suck. It's the way it goes. Beat it until it doesn't suck so bad, and then beat it again.
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Old 01-08-2013, 07:15 AM   #13
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Beat the crap out of it until it resembles something decent.

This. ^
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Old 01-08-2013, 07:55 AM   #14
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Take it in small bits. Break it down by scene.
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:12 AM   #15
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Just hammer that sucker into shape!
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:26 AM   #16
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If you write a story and say 'oh my porcelain throne, that is soooo bad in some places' you still have room to fix it.
A first draft is the atlas. You're not looking for exact perfection. Then you re-write it, usually after letting it stew a bit, and apply polish to it.
Let it simmer some more, then re-write it again. Rinse and repeat, no more than a total of four times.
Why? Because as writers, we can always figure out a way to improve something, we think.
Then you do the queries, and send them in.
Don't look at the story again until you've sent it in.
If you write once, say 'this thing sucks like a Dyson', throw it in the trash and start over...you're never going to finish a story.
That's we rewrites exist. Write it once and roll from there. When you're done with it, you'll know it.
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:39 AM   #17
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Just remember that you've already done the part a whole lot of people never manage. You wrote a complete story from beginning to end. It's easier to work with something that already exists than it is to make something out of a blank page.
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Old 01-08-2013, 10:17 AM   #18
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Just remember that you've already done the part a whole lot of people never manage. You wrote a complete story from beginning to end. It's easier to work with something that already exists than it is to make something out of a blank page.
Fantastic advice.

@OP, keep your head up. You've already done what a lot of people will never do.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:09 PM   #19
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Figure out how to fix it and start revising.
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Old 01-08-2013, 04:34 PM   #20
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Leave the thing alone for a while. Mess with some short stories, if you like writing them, or with notes for the next novel. When you can breathe again, return to the first draft with focus -- you're not going to worry every little detail yet. You're going to figure out what you were trying to say, then design the best structure with which to say it. Building that bony and sinewy amalgamation of plot and character arcs and theme is the job of the second draft. Take your time, build it strong. The subsequent skin-fitting and polishing drafts will be easy once the skeleton is sound.
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Old 01-08-2013, 04:40 PM   #21
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I tend to rewrite as I go along (that includes the first draft) as that crappy bit three pages back will drive me insane until I fix it or scrap it. It takes longer to write the first draft, but when I get to the end it's a lot healthier than it could've been and the second draft tends to be ironing out kinks and poor grammar. I also make sure I know the story well before I start writing so I know where I'm going from chapter to chapter - however, that may be coz I'm anally retentive like that.
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Old 01-08-2013, 04:47 PM   #22
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I have a strong desire to print my manuscript out for the express purpose of exerting physical punishment on it.

But I won't, because I lost some of it to a computer crash, so I'd only be punching most of it in the face.

Rereading it to get back in the swing of things has been kind of painful. But I made myself just write little notes instead of trying to fix anything right now--I need to reconstruct the draft.

Once I do that, I'll leave it alone for a bit. Then I'll come back and make it into an actual manuscript... likely by scrapping and rewriting some sections.

In between, I'll work on other things to push my brains away from it. (I let myself dip into that a little already... to keep myself writing when I couldn't make myself look at the WIP.)

Such is my current plan. Congratulations on having a first draft to tear apart...even if it doesn't feel like a congratulationy moment, it's definitely a good thing to have.
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Old 01-08-2013, 04:53 PM   #23
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Buzhidao - You sound like a mate of mine. He writes the whole MS in bits and drabs, sometimes the end, then a bit in the middle or the beginning with absolutely no chronological order. But it works for him as he has so little to edit in the second draft. It's sickening actually - I'd like to punch his MS for him in green envy.
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Old 01-08-2013, 04:59 PM   #24
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I think this might be a good time to post this quote again:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” (Ira Glass)
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Old 01-08-2013, 05:12 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Mehl View Post
One of the downfalls of word processing is cut and paste, patching, rearranging, letting the lousy first draft dictate the next. Print the poor thing out, make some helpful scribbles on it, rewrite it from scratch and then give the first draft file on your computer a merciful burial in the recycle bin. It's just a draft, not a monument.

The only draft that lingers around my keyboard is the most recent one.
I would advise that you DON'T delete the manuscript file. It may not be a monument, but you may want it to resurrect the good parts or just to remind yourself that you completed something. It's not so worthless that it deserves to be obliterated.
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WIP 1: Britannia c.AD 60. 120 k. Trunked.
WIP 2: Paris, 1780s. 88k. five fulls, one partial, six rejections
WIP 3: Antebellum South, 1854 100k; querying; two fulls, both rejected; R&R
WIP 4: Novella. Civil War w/a hint of supernatural. 43k
WIP 5: The Cotton Wars. 104k. Editing.

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