Knowing what I know now, I’ll be happy to blow out a disjointed, gangly mongrel of a first draft in the future if only to clear my mental sinuses. I mean, if that’s what it takes to get a tighter second draft that I might actually enjoy reading, then sign me up.
The words are coming on the second draft of my first novel, Shadow of the Black City, and they’re not all bad. I’m almost to the quarter mile post on a mile-long track (I’ve got a new writing progress bar on this blog that motivates me even more to see it fill up). I’ve more or less discarded the first draft without even finishing reading it and am rewriting the second draft. This time around, I’ve done more planning and have a better idea of how I want the story to go.
If I had known it would be that way from the start I don’t think I would have forged ahead. The one piece of advice I read on blogs and in books was to write. Period. Get the first draft out and work from there. It turned out to be very true, but not in the way I thought. As I wrote my first draft, I thought I’d have this ugly duckling that would need lots of TLC and nurturing. Instead I got an unlikeable creature that I smothered and buried in a dark corner of the yard.
Once I stopped rationalizing why I should love my first draft, I began thinking about the story in earnest. I really wanted my story to be pretty good from the get go, but my vanity, pride, desire to not shame my family, whatever it is, dictated that I own up to the tripe I created and learn from it so that I didn’t recreate it the second time around. Now, I’m using first draft more of a means of determining what I didn’t want in the story, how I didn’t want the story structured and how I didn’t want to the characters to act.
Here’s a bit:
Men and women lay everywhere — as if an army of ancients had stood against the Djinn and, seeing their doom, laid down and died. The Bedu mages had drawn their energy from the lives of their own soldiers to send the spirits of air and fire back beneath the Jashem. They burned through lives yet unspent, aging soldiers where they stood. They bled the land as well, bleaching sand, stone and dust, leaving only dried, brittle skeletons of grass and plants and shrubs and trees — as if Hazriyah herself salted the earth, forever damning the valley to desolation.