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Meme: So You've Finished The First Draft of Your Novel


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It's looking like I'll be ready at draft 14. I'm just wrapping up #11 now. 

I started assembling a list of Beta readers as I finished my first draft. That was 2018. Oh my sweet summer child... 
 

I've written ten more drafts since then, (and will write three more before I'm done).

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1 hour ago, Johne said:

I've written ten more drafts since then, (and will write three more before I'm done).

I didn't count drafts... I counted years. Four years of constant tweaking, adjusting, cutting, adding, replacing..... and yes, growth of word count...

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15 minutes ago, carolinamtne said:

Mmmmm. Does that deserve cookies or a warning that the book might be "a little" long?

 

Maybe both? 😉

This is a Fantasy / Noir, so it's properly in the same territory as other similar books in the genre, but the masterwork I used as a general guide is half this length (but is also Sci-Fi / Noir instead of Fantasy / Noir).

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5 minutes ago, Tommie Lyn said:

I didn't count drafts... I counted years. Four years of constant tweaking, adjusting, cutting, adding, replacing..... and yes, growth of word count...

 

Nod. I started this novel in 2014, but have only really been working on it seriously since 2018, three years. Before that, it just sat and languished.

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I don't count drafts either.  I revise until it feels good.  After that I'm done.

 

I've been in too many situations in writing software where coders revise and recode until the code is "perfect."  In some situations, it results in the code never getting done because they are never satisfied.  People usually get hung up on all of the minute details, the vast majority of which are arbitrary in nature.   The most important detail is if the code works, is reliable, and can be easily debugged and maintained.  After that,  "good enough," is fine.

 

The same, I think, applies to writing.  If the information you're trying to convey is presented in a clear and entertaining manner, constant tweaking of prose and descriptions and all of the finer points of your specific voice is merely spinning wheels.  Make sure the plot holes are covered, and that things move along with a smooth and realistic flow.

 

Then again...I don't have anything published yet.  So, caveat emptor.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Johne said:

 

Nod. I started this novel in 2014, but have only really been working on it seriously since 2018, three years. Before that, it just sat and languished.

It took me about six weeks to write the first draft, which, at the time, I thought was DONE (yes, I know, hilarious). I'd been thinking about it for a couple of years, wondering how to go about writing this story (I'd tried twice before to write fiction, with disastrous, embarrassing results both times), since the subject was on my heart and mind and just HAD to be told...it wouldn't let me alone. I had no idea how long it was going to take to sculpt that "finished" (ha ha) draft into a readable tale. 

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6 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

The same, I think, applies to writing.  If the information you're trying to convey is presented in a clear and entertaining manner, constant tweaking of prose and descriptions and all of the finer points of your specific voice is merely spinning wheels.  Make sure the plot holes are covered, and that things move along with a smooth and realistic flow.


This novel was a little weird in that I was learning big chunks of theory while I was in-transit. As Shawn Coyne rolled out new aspects of his Story Grid teaching, I'd incorporate them into my novel with another draft, ergo, when he taught about the Five Commandments of writing, I made a pass where I focused on the 5 Cs. When he spoke about the various roles in the Hero's Journey, I took a pass where I made sure I had all the required components for my story, and so on. 

At this stage, I've got all that stitched up. This draft came about after paying fairly expensive (and utterly indispensable) Story Grid Certified Editor to look it over. She had it for a month and identified so many necessary things. Based on her feedback, I ended up doing a page one rewrite where I completely axed the entire Beginning Hook and started the story In Media Res, cutting a ton of backstory, and ramping up the action. I had such a good time rewriting the Beginning Hook that I continued forward and rewrote the rest of the novel, as well. It took a year, but it was totally worth it. The next few drafts will just be cleaning up things I already know about, and then I'm done. 

Most of the things which spawned new drafts for this novel won't be an issue for the sequel. This was my learning novel where I was exposed to a lot of theory, and painstakingly formulated my writing process. Now that's all buttoned-down and I'm able to be productive as ideas occur. I wrote 30 broad plot points for the sequel back in 2019, and should hit the ground running when I get around to kicking it off.

But first I'm going to take a break and lightly polish the first novel in a trilogy I wrote in 2004 called The Adventures of the Sky Pirate. I wrote the first treatment of that for NaNoWriMo 2k4 and later expanded it out as a serialized trilogy for my Space Opera e'zine. I didn't know anything about story structure at that time and was a completely Discovery writer, but when I went back and looked at the first novel not long ago, I was delighted to see I had the 5 Cs elements working for each chapter even before I knew such things existed and were important. I think this goes to show most of us have a pretty good ear for story based on all the other things we've read and watched during our lifetimes. 

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Most of the things which spawned new drafts for this novel won't be an issue for the sequel. This was my learning novel where I was exposed to a lot of theory, and painstakingly formulated my writing process. Now that's all buttoned-down and I'm able to be productive as ideas occur. I wrote 30 broad plot points for the sequel back in 2019, and should hit the ground running when I get around to kicking it off.

 

The novella I'm writing right now was the first story in a few years that I started from scratch.  When I say that, I mean: total zero.  I had a vague concept but no idea where I was going, and no idea about the details.  While I tossed one attempt in the trash, the second is the one that stuck.

 

It was also one of the first times I felt like writing was a chore.  

 

The funny part is that while I'm revising, I'm discovering that the later chapters don't need as much heavy lifting as far as revision.

 

I think that once you find your grove, production is less of an issue.  It's getting into the grove that's the challenge.

Edited by Jeff Potts
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Four years ago I wrote a 600 page book tightened down from 800 (took out a subplot) I was told to make it two books, then to write a prequel which I finished and was told it needed sequel.  Next my mentor wanted books explaining the world's beginning. That morphed into two books. So I have an outline for a six books series.

 

My mentor insists he doesn't care how long I take for the outlines and completing the first book as long as I can produce a book a year after the first one is published. That was a year ago.

 

Now he wants Drought by December 2.   I haven't gotten my groove. I'm encouraged reading about struggles to finish books. A friend bought me a tShirt that says "Writing isn't a hobby, it's a calling."  I'm just beginning to understand what that means to me. 

 

Thats why I love this site - so many  writers who are following their calling.

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6 hours ago, Johne said:

image.png.ba3d0e6969ea4f0c5ecd6e0515f19dca.png
It's looking like I'll be ready at draft 14. I'm just wrapping up #11 now. 

I started assembling a list of Beta readers as I finished my first draft. That was 2018. Oh my sweet summer child... 
 

I've written ten more drafts since then, (and will write three more before I'm done).

Why does that older guy look so familiar? who is he?

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17 minutes ago, Emily Waldorf said:

Why does that older guy look so familiar? who is he?

 

His name is J.K. Simmons. He does Farmers Insurance commercials and is in quite a few movies. In these images, he's playing J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man. 

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5 hours ago, Johne said:

he next few drafts will just be cleaning up things I already know about, and then I'm done. 

 

5 hours ago, Johne said:

should hit the ground running when I get around to kicking it off.

Congratulations and ...

 

 

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21 minutes ago, PenName said:

 

 

His name is J.K. Simmons. He does Farmers Insurance commercials and is in quite a few movies. In these images, he's playing J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man. 

Thank you!I don't think I've ever seen him.

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1 hour ago, PenName said:

His name is J.K. Simmons. He does Farmers Insurance commercials and is in quite a few movies. In these images, he's playing J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man. 

In 2004, he was in the remake of the 1955 British comedy, The Ladykillers. One line which he repeated at various times in the movie, was "easiest thing in the world," and since, in our family, we lock onto bits like that from movies and use them ourselves, he became memorable to us.

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50 minutes ago, Tommie Lyn said:

he was in the remake of the 1955 British comedy, The Ladykillers

Wait, they remade that?? I had no clue!  I love that movie; Alec Guinness is so funny in that.  Now I want to watch it again.

 

@Johne 

9 hours ago, Johne said:

It's looking like I'll be ready at draft 14.

 

9 hours ago, Johne said:

I've written ten more drafts since then, (and will write three more before I'm done).

To me, this is heartbreaking.  Crushing, actually.  To think I might have to write draft after draft after draft after ... you get the idea.  I know, lame 21st Century kid saying this, but ... that sounds like too much work! 😂😢

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24 minutes ago, Grey_Skies said:

To think I might have to write draft after draft after draft after ... you get the idea.  I know, lame 21st Century kid saying this, but ... that sounds like too much work! 😂

The great thing about editing processes is that they're all different! Not everyone does that many drafts, and there are many people who do more than that. The key is to finding what works best for you!

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30 minutes ago, Grey_Skies said:

Wait, they remade that?? I had no clue!  I love that movie; Alec Guinness is so funny in that.  Now I want to watch it again.

The original is SOOO funny! There were things about the remake that were amusing (one of which was J.K. Simmons' performance), but the original is wonderful.

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34 minutes ago, Grey_Skies said:

 Now I want to watch it again.

 

Incidentally, the 2004 remake was directed by Ethan and Joel Cohen, so, let that prepare you. Those brothers are geniuses. I don't especially like every movie they've produced, but some of my favorite movies (like, Raising Arizona, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?) are Cohen brothers productions. 

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18 minutes ago, Grey_Skies said:

To me, this is heartbreaking.  Crushing, actually.  To think I might have to write draft after draft after draft after ... you get the idea.  I know, lame 21st Century kid saying this, but ... that sounds like too much work!


It really can be a lot of work, but most of the drafts for this novel came about in the early going as I was still learning my craft. I was deep into studying Story Grid theory and as Shawn Coyne rolled out new teaching, I'd take another pass and us the tools I'd learned. For instance, I learned that my Fantasy / Noir (Marketing genre) is a Thriller under-the-hood and took a pass making sure I had all the conventions and obligatory scenes for a Thriller. Shawn went through the archetypes for the Hero's Journey and I took a pass where I went through and identified the various characters as archetypes from the HJ. (That's when I discovered Scamp was a Shapeshifter character who betrays Clay at a key moment.) And so on, new drafts as I learned new tricks and tools.

But the biggest draft is this 11th draft. After finishing my tenth draft, I sent my novel to a Story Grid Certified Editor. She kept it for a solid month and sent it back with a ton of targeted suggestions. Her biggest suggestion was rewriting the Beginning Hook to skip ahead and start In Media Res. I had such a good time with that that I rewrote the rest of the novel over the course of this last year to make sure each chapter contained the Five Commandments of writing and turned on the right global life value.

In a way, after that first rough draft for NaNoWriMo 2014, this is really the spiritual second draft, so it's not as bad as all that. Now that I know what I'm doing, every novel won't require as many drafts as I needed for this one, but as this was my debut novel, I spent a great deal of time learning how I write. Now that I've got that pretty well locked down, I can concentrate on getting more done faster going forward.

For instance, I went to Lake Tahoe in 2019 for a Plotting Madness Boot Camp and wrote down 30 plot points for the sequel, THE BLACK SERPENT. When I'm done with this novel and start the next one, that book will come dogether much faster than this one did because I've done my due diligence figuring how I work.

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39 minutes ago, Grey_Skies said:

To me, this is heartbreaking.  Crushing, actually.  To think I might have to write draft after draft after draft after ... you get the idea.  I know, lame 21st Century kid saying this, but ... that sounds like too much work! 😂😢

Writing a book IS work. For those who haven't done it, it may appear that you just jot some things down, hit publish, and, voilà! You're a published author. Nothing to it. "Easiest thing in the world," to quote J.K. Simmons. 😀

But here's the thing: do you want something out there that you've written that is not the best it could be? Something with your name/pen name on it? I jokingly said (before I published anything) that I could see myself at a book store, pen in hand, chasing people down who bought my book, telling them, "Let me fix that one sentence. You'll thank me later."

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6 minutes ago, Tommie Lyn said:

Incidentally, the 2004 remake was directed by Ethan and Joel Cohen, so, let that prepare you. Those brothers are geniuses. I don't especially like every movie they've produced, but some of my favorite movies (like, Raising Arizona, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?) are Cohen brothers productions. 

 

Those movies are hysterical!! Did you like True Grit? Very different. 

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