1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does time and experience improve your first drafts?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Mar 11, 2012.

    I just read through my very first draft of my very first novel and I couldn't even believe I had written something that shitty, :rolleyes:
    Which makes me wonder: does time and experience improve the quality of your first drafts or will there always take the same number of rewrites and major editing to produce something hopefully good?

    Is it just me imagining or is the first draft of my current novel project much more clean than even the second draft of the previous one? it scares me a little thinking that I could actually consider submitting it even though it's just in a moderately polished and edited first draft shape, because I think it's more than decent, almost like a second or third draft, (and I know there are hardly any typos or grammatical errors) because realistically it can't be, right? and in that case, How will I ever know when it is good enough?

    I know you shouldn't submit something until it is as good as you can possibly make it, and I'm sure not going to do that right now either, I'm just saying even if i did, I wouldn't make a complete fool of myself. I'm just starting to wonder if I have become blind to my own shortcomings as a writer or if this is even comparable to a much later draft of the first one.

    what are your views on this?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first novel took eight, complete, from scratch rewrites. That doesn't include the number of times I deleted 10,000+ words just to make it work.

    My current one will take a very rough zero draft, one or two rewrites and then being edited. Yes it has got much faster and I would do those rewrites even if the zero draft was wonderful. There is something about already knowing the story in depth and rewriting it from scratch that in my work deepens and improves it.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    As with everything, practice makes... well, much, much better. :D
     
  4. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're re-reading your work and learning from it then of course even your first drafts are going to improve.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Yes.

    The more you write, the more your writing gets better.

    Also, doing rewrites can help you with big-picture things too -- like if you realize that your plot should have gone in a different direction, or you should characterize one of the characters in a totally different way. At least that happened to me.
     
  6. Pchew
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    Pchew Member

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    Totally! If you write more, you could develop your style more, as well as let your imagination grow! :). You'll probably get better at grammar, punctuation, etc :)
     
  7. LTC
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    LTC Member

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    Number of drafts and amount of time spent on or between revisions does not determine the quality of your writing, nor does it in and of itself improve it. You can easily write anything the entire way through without writing multiple drafts and still have it be excellent, if you've got enough of that second variable you mentioned--experience. And perspective.

    People typically believe that your writing improves with time, but there's too much missing from that philosophy to make it true. What happens is you experience and absorb more of the world, and your perception of what constitutes a good writing piece will change(and not always for the better, either). The thing about "good enough" is that its definition will never be the same for too long. All you can worry about is writing and revising to the best of whatever your ability may be at the time. You can't fret over Future You being able to catch mistakes Present You cannot, or else you'll never get anywhere. It's okay to be unsure and it's more than okay to make progress. The best you can do is not a reflection of the best you can ever do.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Assuming that you are continuing to work on your writing, striving to improve it (and your posts on this forum over time indicate that you are), you should get better. Just for fun, I went back not too long ago and read through my first novel, which I declared "finished" many years ago, and found numerous shortcomings (some of the more glaring ones include too much minute detail that didn't help the story move forward, including incidental fillers to "account for time" rather than simply moving forward; too much telling rather than showing; using italics for text relating to a certain subplot; breaking the 4th wall). When I declared it finished, it was as good as I could make it at the time, but I've done a lot of writing and studying since then, and I've learned a lot. No doubt, you have, too. Instead of lamenting how poorly you think of your first novel now, you should be glad you've improved as much as you have since then.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    If my post came off as me complaining about my first draft that wasn't my intention and it wasn't the purpose of the post. It was about comparing the first drafts of then with the first drafts of what I'm writing today, and yes, I am really glad to realize I've grown as a writer, but I also wonder if I might have become 'blind' and if what I now consider a good first draft will make me feel the same way as for the old one a year from now. And if it will always take as many rewritings regardless of the quality of that first draft.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless you're trying something totally new for yourself - new genre, for example - then I would say no. Of course, some people have a formula for writing which makes it mandatory to go through X-number of rewrites/revisions, but as you become more in tune with your writing, many things become second-nature. And it's not just the grammar bits, either. You get more of a feel for the story-telling part of writing - and it's while learning that that most writers go through the seemingly endless rewrites/revisions. JMO, as always :)
     
  11. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    Hmm ... How will you ever know it's good enough? Good question. I have no idea. I haven't been there yet myself. But like yourself, I find there is such a huge difference between what I was writing ten years ago than today. It's not just the writing itself that has changed, but what I write and how I approach the material that has changed also. Which, I guess, is a good thing, although the things I struggled with ten years don't seem to bother me anymore as shortcomings. I've moved on to greater troubles. Or rather, I just know enough now to be more aware of them.
    .
    If you're afraid that you might be becoming blind to your shortcomings, pull in a second opinion. Or a third. Just make sure you evaluate their reviews with a critical eye and don't just revise your work simply to please their opinions. Save that for your editor's recommendations when your manuscript gets accepted for publication. Best of luck to you!
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is interesting. Maybe the things we learn revising one story we can apply directly when writing the first draft of the next and the revision process will be less extensive. Do you think that is true?
     
  13. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    Revisions? Isn't that what writing is all about? ;)
     
  14. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know :rolleyes:, but I mean, as we learn more and more, maybe we automatically do all of those things (that we tend to leave to the revision/editing phase) straight away instead of fixing them later. Or won't we?
     
  15. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    I'm a bit more lukewarm than most people about this question, I guess. I haven't been writing for very long and I'm rather impatient, so that should be taken into account. I've been writing fiction for maybe three years now (I've been writing longer, but I only seriously got into it a few years ago), and I've produced one novella, a handful of short stories, and the very beginnings of a novel (maybe 50 pages--haven't looked at it in a while). When I wrote my novella, I entered this weird three-month period of productivity that nothing could snap me out of. I just wrote straight through and while I polished and edited along the way, I didn't really question where it was going. Now, I look at that draft and some of it is indeed cringe-inducing, only two years later, and now I think I could probably write it better if I was motivated to. My rough drafts now are probably of better quality than they were two or three years ago, but on the other hand, I've never felt that same burst of creativity as I did the first time. I've been searching for it ever since. Instead, I sometimes feel stagnated. I'm inclined to set very high standards now, and I often can't live up to them well enough to finish what I start. I really have to force myself not to worry about whether what I write is any good in order to produce ANYTHING, even a shitty little scratched up scene I write in the margins of a notebook that no one ever has to (and no one ever should) see. When I do manage to produce though, my efforts are certainly better than they were originally. I no longer feel the need to use "said --ly" in every single line and I no longer have issues with third person limited vs. omniscient (I used to apply omniscient inconsistently, just to the characters I liked). Likewise, I don't feel like I have to go into every back story within the first two pages of the manuscript.

    I don't mean to be negative. I'm still writing, and I'm definitely better than I was. But I have yet to find the perfect balance between my positive and negative voices, the one that tells me I'm great and the one that constantly reiterates that I suck at life. Before, I didn't know I was bad, so I never shot anything down. I hope, though, with more practice and life experience, I'll be able to tell the negative voice to shut up so I can get writing done and turn it back on when I edit.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely. Even though I edit/revise as I go, I do find that I almost instinctively know what will work and what won't - which is something I definitely struggled with in my earlier ventures, and caused me to spend much more time on each chapter than happens now.
     
  17. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    Sure we do -- but only to the point where we have grown in our writing skills. I think what we catch changes as over time as we grow from our practice and experience. From my own perspective, I've noticed that I don't see so many of the crimes I committed ten years ago popping up as frequently in current work (i.e., first drafts). I do edit some as I go along, although not fanatically. Things I spent time looking up and reviewing back then have become more automatic, but I wouldn't say this means my drafting stage is now significantly error-free. Instead, I find the more I learn about the craft of writing, the more aware I am when something doesn't work out quite right ... and now these somethings are on a completely different level than the somethings that used to bother me years before. So, to come up with a short answer for your question, yes ... and no. I hope you at least find the 'yes' part encouraging. :eek:
     
  18. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Time & experience will improve the quality, but may also improve the quality of your editing skills. So maybe you'll write better first drafts, and edit them more efficiently.

    I don't know. That seems to be how it worked for me. I know just what you mean about not knowing when it is good enough. I thought my writing was pretty good years ago, but when I look at it now it's easy for me to spot errors I'd made. Maybe years from now I'll easily spot the errors I'm making now. But my confidence in my judgment has improved along with my writing skills, so I'm more confident now that when I think something is written well, it is.
     
  19. Justin Nemo
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    Justin Nemo New Member

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    According to his biographer the publishers had to drag 'The Lord of the Rings' from Tolkien's hands, because he wanted to keep revising it. He was never satisfied with anything he had written and would change whole chapters sometimes. I guess there has to come a point when you just leave it alone.
     
  20. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I think someone else (another writer preferably, not mom or dad) can make a better judgement call as to wether what you're working on is up to the sending out stage. I have found that I will write a scene and think, wow, now that's pretty good but later will go back over the scene and realize I was sadly mistaken so I just quit trying to decide. I simple look for critique partners.
     
  21. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd love that too, but unfortunately I don't know any possible critique partners where I live ... I really wish I did, I'm sure it would be of enormous help. How do you find yours? The only people I know who writes are the people that writes on various blogs I follow, but they aren't exactly published writers, they're in the same boat as I am and I don't even know them in real life and I wouldn't trust someone like that read my novels. besides, we're basically each others competition, lol.
     
  22. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    Tesoro, I'm kind-of in the same boat. I befriended our local used bookstore owner and he said he'd be willing to read my work. I'm not expecting to come away with so much of a critiquing review as comments from a well-read reader...and maybe an "it's saleable" remark? I live too far away from our areas' closest writers group, but that might be another avenue you can try. They often have small groups that you can join which meet a couple times a month and can provide a critique of your work as it progresses. Once you build bridges, you might find a critiquing partner for your finished drafts. Just some ideas. I'm looking forward to others replies to this because it's something I've been interested in, too.
     
  23. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I like online critique partners. It gives me a much broader base of people to draw on. I live in a small town and most of my writer friends here aren't as motivated as me so it's not a good critique match. (But they are wonderful to chat with about writing stuff.) I have a couple people who I trade pages with either through email or google documents. I found one through a friend because I mention on Facebook that I'm looking for critique partners and she knew someone who was also looking and another partner I found right here on this forum. I just sent her a message and things clicked.
     
  24. doghouse
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    The art of writing is in the rewriting.

    First drafts will improve only if you improve your craft along the way. That comes with time of course.

    I certainly agree with Amy. Online is a good resource to pull from, in order to find people that will give good constructive critique. Sugar-coated niceties don't really help anyone.

    To critique others is a good way to improve too.
     
  25. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    This is what works for me:

    Story structure. I link to my favorites in the signature, but choose one that works for you. Then keep writing stories around it. You just get better and better.
     

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