Learning to Live with ‘The First Draft’ and its Consequences.


If you have only recently started out writing consider this as a benign warning which  should not discourage you.

And there was January 2020.

If you have been writing for a while you probably are familiar with this sort of thing. Re-write, self-editing before you dare to let the work see the light of day….The process starts of with a promise that this time you will be meticulous in spelling, punctuation, continuity and syntax checks, using whatever computerised tool you semi-trust. So away you  go, examining the narrative for each of the above and as you go along making a tweak here and a tweak there. My! Look at those words pass by. Wow! When you were writing this one, you must have been on a roll!!

This joyous state will last at best into word 20,000 (much earlier if you are writing short stories or novellas), then the plot creeps up over you shoulder and whispers in your ear, some doubts whether you seriously expect readers to believe this was how characters actually got from Word 1 to Word 17,432.

While you are pondering on this matter one of the major characters points out you most certainly did not consult them about what happens from Word 83,732 onwards and if you wish them to have a complete change of outlook of this magnitude could you please include a chapter involving a traumatic brain injury. This shakes you, because under these twin assault 66,000 words between these two objections appear to be in jeopardy.

Make a frantic note to re-read up to Word 18,000, you flip through the document to about the half-way point, circa Word 84,000, read one bit and panic; the character has a point. You  then dash back to that splendid bit somewhere around Word 40,100 only to find the 500 words are not as sparkling as you remembered them being; in fact what was supposed to be a heartfelt rendition of one person’s feelings is starting to resemble a collection of clichés and plagiarisms from five over-rated novels now gathering mould in bargain bins

By now the entire work is starting to crumble to allegorical dust, despair comes slithering with an ‘I toldja so!’ And a year’s worth of toil lies before you with a big ? stamped on every page.

Actually I say…..

So what is the point of a year of hammering out about 200,000 words of complex interaction between a multiplicity of characters in Vol III of a Fantasy series if you don’t find it falling apart on the first re-write, edit or whatever you care to call the process?

Well that’s my opinion.

Time well spent getting all shot of the bad ideas, lacks of continuity, failure to keep a consistency in the characters and sub-plots which are going nowhere, Flushing them out of the head, heart and ditching the influence of that one book you read/heard and are now wondering ‘how did that ever get published without being indie?’. (Regrettably there is always ‘one’).

Towards the end of last year I forged on so the assertion could be made the first draft was finished  by the end of the year. It is somewhat pleasing as this is being written to be able to say there is very little recollection of those last 30,000 words. I do recall however The Plot  saying ‘Enough! You are not paying attention to me. You have cast(eth) me aside for some tawdry spectacle of a high body count and quite implausible actions by a collection of ill-tempered and scatter-brained imposters while the original characters have given up and gone home for the holidays. I too want no more to do with you for this season. We will all return in the New Year when you are of more sober and mature mind,’ 

Thus MY January 2020 was slightly different.

‘OK, folks are not psyche so do not expect them to understand one half of what is going on unless you include a better prologue.’

I can do that….

And so prepared myself for what else was bound to come, I mean that was into Word 3, and The Plot was also wishing to have a talk with me, because once more it had been swamped in characters doing ‘business’. It was confident in this objection because it was supported by several of the characters who said, whereas they didn’t mind ‘business’, it should only be in small doses and who cares what they had for breakfast? And could they convey emotions other than by smiles or snarls? One of them wanted to know just what they had to do with the whole book anyway? Sure they were there a lot up until half way through, after which I seemed to have forgotten about them except in the last 2,000 words. Another pointed out he seemed to have been dropped out of the very sky to assist one of the major characters to get from place to another, after which he was given nothing to do but run around in the background in a very vague but peripatetic way.

I was ready for this.

Yes I agreed with The Plot. I listened to the characters.

This is one why I do so like Ctrl +C and have a Word.doc ‘Extracts deleted. Retained’ where the Ctrl+C’d get Ctrl + V‘d, so I can extract chunks of the ‘deleted’ and plonk them back somewhere better suited. So far 60,000+ words moved there. Another ‘why’ is that I can move whole chapters from one part of the narrative to another….This can be quite a never racking experience and prone to Word being evil, so always have a firm press of ‘Ctrl’ lest you find Word has gleefully deleted 1,000 highlighted words and left you with a ‘c’. Should that happen, swear, close the doc and ‘No! Word you do not want to (expletive) save it!’, Then start again.

And I have this  cool Note Book my wife got me for Father’s Day last year


In which I am entering a synopsis of each chapter for continuity and making sure I don’t stray from The Plot

I do like re-writes. They are quite the adventure.