I have been writing consistently for long enough that I have a good sense of how I write. I know what’s easy for me and what isn’t. I have an idea of where my blind spots are and what I excel in.
First drafts for me are glorious fun. I have never been the sort to agonize over a sentence before moving on to the next one. I’m very much the type to plow ever forward through bad punctuation and overly complicated sentence structure. Fuck it! I will fix this in the next draft!! I do very little planning, no outlining, and just run with it. I don’t even break the manuscript into chapters.
My first drafts come out clean, more or less, but they always need to be rewritten. I mean, that’s true of everyone, always. It is a fool’s errand to stop with a first draft. But I think the reasons why my first drafts suck compared to someone else’s are as unique as fingerprints. Mine generally suck because for the first fifty pages I tend to think I’m writing one sort of book (or a story or a novella) and it turns out I’m writing something completely different. There comes a peculiar bright line in my first drafts where characterization crystallizes, the language and style begin to organically flow, and the tone of the piece becomes clear. Whenever I revisit a first draft I’ve let sit for awhile I always end up wondering what the hell is going on in those first fifty pages.
Maybe the only thing I like better than churning out a first draft is churning out a second draft. The first drafts are fun because their an exploration – who know what’s going to happen? The story takes over and charts its own course. But the second draft lets me focus. I know the characters. I know the world. I know how to restart the story.
I am in the process of rewriting a first draft of a book that I have just loved the shit out of since I first started writing it. Some books are like that: you just bond with them, and the writing is never a struggle. This one has a lot of my heart poured into it. The first fifty pages were, predictably, a mess, but I have spent so much time rereading that first draft for fun and rethinking it that the rewrites are flying by at a breakneck pace.
It’s going to be a different book. A better book. Definitely a darker and less naive book. The general plot is the same, but the relationships between the characters have grown and blossomed. Writing this second draft means I’m writing this book again, but with clarity and purpose. I’m writing it to be read by someone else, which gives it an urgency. It’s exhilarating.
Editing that second draft so it’s polished enough for a beta reader, though, is something I’m not looking forward to. That’s where I tend to stall. I’m not the type to peter out halfway through a manuscript, or the type to never get past a first draft, but I am very much the type who grow bored and impatient of the minutia of making a draft a polished, readable book. I have yet to find a way to make line editing something which fires my creative juices. If anyone out there has any suggestions to make that step as engrossing as drafting and redrafting, I’d love to hear it!