Well, it finally happened. After 90,000 words, I finally finished reading my current rough draft of my work in progress. Now keep in mind that when I say rough, I mean very rough. Entire scenes are missing, there is no written ending, and I seem to have an inability to tell time within the confines of my writing. Did my character attack the ninjas 3 days ago, or 3 months ago? Who knows? Not her. Certainly not me.
I did run into something surprising, though, as I read through this draft. This is my second draft, and the changes between the first and second are immense. I essentially rewrote the entire story. This led to a week or two of freaking out when I made this decision, because I am not a fan of rewriting. If any of my old English teachers are reading this, I have a confession to make: Those all-important rewrites you always told us to do? They were never done. Ever. Rough draft for an A or bust. That was my rule.
Rewrites always felt like a complete waste of my first draft. The logic in my mind went like this: I put x amount of hours into writing this first draft. If I write a second draft, those x hours were a complete waste of time and energy (Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t do math here).
I honestly felt like this was a more efficient way of doing things. And for essays, it more or less worked. I would tweak one or two things from my first draft, and be good to go. But this doesn’t work with books.
So I found myself scrapping 100,000 words of a first draft for this draft. And as I read through this second one, I actually found myself almost enjoying it. Or at least, enjoying it as much as possible when you’re trying to ignore gross errors and awkward sentence structure.
And the funny thing? I absolutely needed that first draft to get to this point. This is something I’ve read time and again in writing articles and books, but I attributed it to writer-ly hazing. Surely it was just some silly idea that accomplished writers put out there to trick newcomers, right?
I needed that first draft. I need this second draft to get to my third, and I’ll need that third draft to get to my fourth and beyond. Thinking about that is slightly depressing, but there is good news in all of this work.
As I went to the final page of my second draft, I wanted more. I want to know where my characters end up. I want to know if the main character will continue to change. I want to know who is on what side and how these characters interact. I want to know how this ridiculous, twisted conflict could ever be resolved.
I want to know what happens next.
It’s funny, because, as writers, I think people expect us to completely know where our story is going. While I have a general idea of my ending, my character backstories, and character interactions, I can never say I absolutely know what will happen. I have characters that I initially put in as comedic relief, who are evolving and changing into important, multi-faceted characters. I run into things my main character struggles with that I never intended for her to struggle with in the first place.
Do my characters control my story? No. But do they sometimes come to life in my writing, in ways that I never expected? Absolutely.
And this, I feel, is one of the greatest joys of writing. I never quite know where the story will take me, either.
I want to turn the page.
I want to know what happens next.
And I can’t think of a better reason to jump back into this draft.
Does this happen in your stories? Or even in your blogs? Let me know! I love hearing things from you guys, even if this blog was MIA for a few months. Cheers!