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My First Draft

In one of my first blog posts I admitted that I want to be a writer. Maybe you’re thinking: If you want to be a writer, are you writing anything?

Me: Well thank you for asking. Yes, I am.

Three things happened early this year that got me wanting to write my own story. First, I read a book called “How I Wrote My First Book.” Each chapter was written by a different author and they explained how they wrote their first book. Some authors knew from early on what they wanted to do, others had different careers first — but they all published one if not more books. Reading it made me feel like it wasn’t too late for me.

Second, a friend of a friend published an e-book that I bought on Amazon. It wasn’t a bad story though there were things in it that I might have done differently. But when I was done reading it I realized I couldn’t critique it at all. She had done it. She published her book and as long as she was happy with it, I could only be happy for her.

Third, my brother illustrated a children’s book which was published and won several awards, (shameless plug for brother: The Little Monk and the Mantis) and that was just straight inspiring.

Surprised Girl Looking at Laptop

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici

So I started thinking maybe I could write and publish my own story too. Soon after having this thought, I got an idea, then a character, then a few more. I started seeing scenes unfold in my mind, playing out like a movie. I’d repeat them in my head and sometimes notice something new or see them change. I wrote them in my journal or typed them up — some days more successfully than others. In the end I reached my goal of finishing my first draft at about 97,000 words! I was stunned at how much I had written. Stunned and completely excited!

During the same time, I’d been reading lots of blog articles about the writing process and I learned that a first draft is usually crap! (Not my word, I’m paraphrasing). And it’s true, because when you’re drafting you’re trying to get the story out of your head and onto the paper or screen. You’re not focused on editing or fixing the story, just getting it out. So yeah, I’ve completed my first draft but it’s no way near ready for sharing.

Now I’m focused on fixing that draft — edit, revise, find gaps, fill them, rewrite and do whatever it takes to turn this draft into something worth sharing. It’s a big project for me and a little scary, because I’ve been here before with a completed a first draft. For one reason or another, though, I just stopped working on them. But this time, I think I have a plan.

Revising My Second Draft

I’m borrowing strategies from various author’s including Joanna Penn (The Creative Penn), Larry Brooks (The Story Fix) and others. But mostly I’m using Rachel Aaron’s (Pretentious Title) strategies. I’ve already done a quick read-through of my WIP (Work in Progress) and created a Master To Do list of all things wrong with it.

My Master To Do List for WIP

Master To Do List for WIP

I’ve also created a story timeline to make sure that everything happens when it’s supposed to, like making sure there is snow on the ground in winter and melted by summer. I know that sounds silly but believe me, I’ve already found weird mistakes like that. Told you my first draft was crap — okay maybe not that bad, but it needs fixing!

So many questions!

Even though I’ve done a quick read through of the whole WIP and made some edits or improvements, there is so much I still don’t know about my own story! Here are just a few:

  • Does my story really start at the beginning? I’m not sure, I’m still debating this question.
  • Where do I break my scenes into chapters? I have a loose sense, but nothing definite.
  • What’s my genre? This is a big one. Based on all I’ve read, I should know this, but I don’t. I think I’m leaning towards Young Adult though I’m not sure that’s the best fit.
  • Is my story too long? Through the various blogs and writing advise I’ve read I’ve seen reference to Stephen King’s words “kill your darlings” over and over again. In order to make my story better I need to be willing to cut out scenes and words that don’t work. It’s much harder than it sounds.
  • What’s my story’s title? I have no idea, but that’s also the last thing I’m worried about.

So, what’s next? Drafts 3, 4, 5?

A waste paper bin with paper spilling out of it.

Image courtesy of
Luigi Diamanti

I’ve done a thorough review of Part I and still need to review Parts II & III. This will add to my To Do list and I’ll work on all the fixes until they are all crossed off of my list. Then maybe at that point — and I do mean “maybe” — I’ll be ready to share my WIP with someone who can give me honest and constructive feedback, (friends, writing groups or beta readers).

Once I get that feedback, I’ll redo the editing process again … and again … and again … until I feel like my story is actually done.

I plan on putting updates here as I hit milestones and set new goals. I figure saying them out loud (or on this blog at least) makes me more accountable. Don’t worry, its not all I plan to blog about but it is the main reason I started this blog.

So what about you?

Do you have any writing or editing tips that might be helpful? Are you in the middle of a project that’s scary and exciting at the same time? I’d love to hear about it! Tell me what you think below.