From the First Draft to the Last by Donna

"First drafts never get published. Never." 

- Darcy Patterson

When I checked out this week's blog theme "First vs. Final Drafts - The Differences," my mind was instantly filled with a plethora of opposites.  Night/Day.  Bad/Good. Before/After.  Begin/End.  Dog/Cat... okay, not that one, but you get the idea.  There's a lot of change between the first draft and the last.  

It's an encouraging point to those of us in the midst of the struggle between version one and version twenty one.  Author Ken Follett says, "The rewrite is very satisfying, because I feel that everything I do is making the book a little better."  But the stakes on each draft are also high.  William Zinsser says, "Rewriting is the essence of writing well--where the game is won or lost."

The Next Draft Means Rethinking.  The Roman poet Horace thought one should wait nine years between the finished first draft and the next version. While I don't know any publisher who's going to support that kind of productivity (or lack of), I do agree that thinking time and distance between drafts is critical.  Early drafts aren't about correcting punctuation errors and edits.  It's about the big picture. Plot. Character.  Setting.  Theme.

The Next Draft Means Thinking BIG.  All of my biggest structural revelations come in later drafts.  It's when I ask myself over and over again, what if?  What if this scene happened first?  What if this character's past wasn't revealed until this moment?  What if this whole chapter moved to

The Next Draft Means Focusing on the Middle.  In early drafts, I tend to know where I want to start and what is going to be the final outcome.  The middle is definitely the muddle and is often not fully formed until subsequent drafts. Peter Dunne proposes an unusual paradigm for the middle of a story in his book, Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the PlotDunne says that the beginning and ending are about plot, or the outer problem. The middle is about what he calls “story” but most of us would call the inner problem. Beginning and ending–action. Middle–character.

Tomorrow, I'm off to write the next draft for Book2 at the Abby of Saint Walburga (or writer's prison, as I like to call it) and I will be taking these reminders for revision with me.  Hopefully, this draft will be one step closer to the "final" one.


I'm intrigued by Peter Dunne's idea & will have to look more into that.

Have a great time at writer's prison!

Food for thought, really. Having just finished NaNo, but not the draft and feeling like it's crap I always throw my novels away. But maybe there is something in there. So I'll continue working on another idea and let it sit. Then come back to it because frankly, I'm sick to death of it, and maybe it'll look like it's worth working on.

Thanks for your thoughts,

Post a Comment

Grid_spot theme adapted by Lia Keyes. Powered by Blogger.


discover what the Muses get up to when they're not Musing

an ever-growing resource for writers

Popular Musings

Your Responses

Fellow Musers