It’s Just a First Draft, Part 3

I finished my first draft! It ended up at approximately 68,000 words. I always let a first draft sit for a few weeks before I look at it again, although I already have a number of ideas about what I need to do with it when I start revising. In any case, here are my It’s Just a First Draft reminders upon finishing.

It’s ok if the ending fizzles out. It would be lovely if I could finish my draft and think, “Yes, that’s the perfect ending.” I went back and looked at my other manuscripts to see if this has ever been the case. In CAVEBOY, my original last line became the end of the second to last paragraph, so I did keep the line. For DEXELON, I originally wrote a cliffhanger ending. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it, and I didn’t. The last line of DUET actually stayed the same through all drafts, with a very slight tweak. I know that won’t be the case with this first draft, but that’s ok.

It’s ok if the stakes aren’t high enough. I am always too easy on my main character in the first draft. I understand the stakes in my head, but I have trouble making them play out high enough in the actual draft. It’s one of those things I need to really think about, and if I spent time on it during the draft, I’d never finish. On the plus side, now that I’m finished, I have a clear idea of what I need to do with the stakes when I go back and revise.

It’s ok if the character arc isn’t complete. The character arc goes hand in hand with the stakes, so it makes sense that if one is weak, the other will be, too. The emotional punch just isn’t there yet, and for me that’s related to the show and tell rule. I have to think about how to show the emotions, so I can’t spend time on that while I’m drafting. As with the stakes, I know what I need to do there, so it will come through when I have the time to really dig in.

It’s ok if the dialogue isn’t authentic. I have several different dynamics happening in this particular story. My character is going back and forth between being a high school girl and pretending to be a middle school boy (that’s as much as I’m going to share about the premise at this point). Right now the conversations she has with these two different groups of people sound about the same. I know I’ll have to go back and inject more boy into the younger dialogue. But once again, it’s something that requires thought.

It’s ok if something went in a completely different direction in the middle of the draft. It always amazes me how I can be writing and feel like I’m not in control of the direction. It’s like my fingers are working independently of my brain. I know that’s not really true. It’s obviously that I’m tapping into a different part of my brain while drafting than planning. There were several times important plot points (the first kiss, the first twist reveal) happened before I intended them to, but I’ll probably keep them there. I think the drafting part of my brain knew better :).

At this point, I’m just thrilled to have the story waiting in Scrivener for me to whip into shape. I’m not as happy with this draft as I was with my last one, but I think that has to do with working in the longer YA format. It was hard to wrap my mind around that much content. I’m excited about what I’ll be able to do with it when it’s time to revise. In any case, I can say I’ve written another novel!

Other posts in this series:
It’s Just a First Draft
It’s Just a First Draft, Part 2

Responses to “It’s Just a First Draft, Part 3”

  1. Joanne Fritz

    Hey, MIchelle! Congrats! That’s an accomplishment and you deserve to treat yourself. I just finished my first draft too! It’s 39K words (it’s a MG). So I’ve now written three novels. And an author I know told me not only to pat myself on the back (because so few people actually FINISH a novel) but to let the book sit for three months before I start tackling revisions. Ack! It’s hard not to jump right back into it. But I totally hear you about the stakes not being high enough and the character arc not being there yet.

    • Michelle I. Mason

      Congrats on finishing your draft as well! Wow, three months is a long time. The only time I let an MS sit that long was when I had an R&R on another MS to occupy my time. I usually shoot for a month, and that’s long enough for me to get some distance.

      • Joanne Fritz

        Yeah, three months seems like forever. I wanted to jump right back in after a week or two, or even a month as you say, to get some distance. That’s what I did with my first two novels. But they’ve gotten me nowhere, so he may have a point. And he’s a very successful novelist. (I’m blogging about his advice next week.)

  2. Mom

    Congrats on getting first draft done. As always I can hardly wait until it is done enough for me to read. I know not yet….


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