1. Arya Stark
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    Arya Stark Member

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    How good are your first drafts?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Arya Stark, May 25, 2015.

    Hi guys!

    I just finished my draft of my first 4 or so chapters, and while they're long, they're absolute trash at the same time.

    It's annoying, since I like the descriptions of the area they're in, yet the story seems muddled and the plot has moved far too quickly. I just wanted to know if anyone else starts off so poorly?

    Thanks!
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I edit as I go, so my "first" drafts are also my third and fourth drafts, if that makes sense. So they're pretty good.

    But there's a solid tradition of some writers writing very rough first drafts. So, no, you're not alone.
     
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  3. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    Quite good. Usually just a polish away from finished, if any writing can ever be said to meet that description. Like BayView, I edit as I go, usually giving what I wrote yesterday a thorough reading before moving on to the next bit.
     
  4. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I can't first draft.

    I have to edit as I go. I usually start with whatever needs to get out of my head, it could be anything between a couple of lines and multiple pages but before I move on, I have to go back through it a few times. Emotion gets added, settings change, points are researched, descriptions and movements are added and if anything in that section has a direct effect on another section, then I have to look up and make those alterations right there. I can't move on until what I'm working on is the best it can be at that moment in time.

    I do go on to do another few full read throughs but I can't first draft. I just can't.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    About as good as Justin Bieber's songs.
     
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  6. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Ditto. For years, I tried the 'don't edit until you have a complete draft' approach, but I found that just wasted time. Now I edit as I go along, so I don't need to do much more editing after the first draft. In this novel, for example, I completely rewrote one character after I got a third of the way into the story and realized they were wrong for the story.
     
  7. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Compared to what?
    And by what do you mean?

    If you mean grammar? Yeah my first draft smells rancid. Plot? I am generally okay but then again bad plot can be present on a tenth draft or never present at all. Expression? I think decent.

    Still point is what are we comparing it to? A real book? Then all my work even my most recent drafts are crap. To my real life friends? Then my first drafts are gold. The way I expressed it in previous paragraph is sort of compared to myself and what I can get. Because yeah after two or three edits the expression and grammar get much better but I don't see the point in saying that. Who doesn't have improved work after revising or editing. I mean if draft two is worse in terms of grammar you are doing something wrong.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like most others above, I edit as I go, so the first draft is pretty much my only draft. I may make changes based on beta comments, but that's also done as it's written (chapter by chapter) so at the end, I only have polishing left.
     
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  9. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    They're often bad, but they're allowed to be bad. That's liberating.
     
  10. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    On the plus side, at least millions of teenage girls will still be willing to buy your first draft.
     
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  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    In my practice so far, it seems that usually my middle drafts are the ones that are the best. After that, I find that some of the newer things I add or change, overdo it, and less is more in the end.
     
  12. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Garbage.
     
  13. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If you've not written much previously, I'd say a first draft is almost guaranteed to be bad, just because you have a lot to learn about writing well.

    I edited the first draft of my novel a bit as I went along, and it helped, especially with getting my plot into some sort of coherent order, but still my first draft needs a lot of work. The second half of it is a bit better because I stopped to take an online novel writing course and learnt a fair bit. Maybe I won't think that when I get there, because I feel like I've learned a fair bit more, while doing the first quarter of draft two.
     
  14. Arya Stark
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    Arya Stark Member

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    Compared to the level of writing I think I can achieve, if that makes sense. I don't want to sound cocky or over confident, but the draft I had last night was quite bad to be honest.

    I've scrapped the whole first draft idea now, and I'm editing every chapter as I go along. It's made the plot slow down a lot, and I like my first chapter a little more now.

    The only bad thing is, I took down the word count by nearly a quarter in my first chapter by editing it.
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Taking the word count down is not really a bad thing. Your goal shouldn't be to write long, it should be to write well.

    I'd say I've seen more new writers worrying about their books being too long to publish than new writers worrying about their books being too short.

    Beware of fluff and filler, and don't equate a high word count with quality!
     
  16. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes that makes sense but it doesn't mean anything.

    You are comparing your first draft to the quality you can overal achieve. Obviously the first draft is going to be worse. I personally think this is always the case. I don't think any real auther ever submitted his first draft of any chapter as the final draft.

    I would be weery of editing to much at the beginning the trap of editing chapter 01 fifteen times and never reaching chapter 2 as such is a real thing. I felt it.

    Personally everyone has there own writing process. It is less about being perfect first try and haing a process that works for you. Like my process. For my first complete book draft actually.

    1. Wrote chapter. Did so on phone.
    2. Emailed it to me so I could transfer it to computer. Spell checked it.
    3. Read it aloud looking for bad phrasing and any other erros.
    4. Fed it though a narriator or read loud computer feature.
    5. Repeat 1-4 next chapter.

    That was my process. Once I finished a chapter by this method I wouldn't touch it again until I got to the end or near it. After all even after all that I still consider it a first draft. Moving to second draft involved me getting people to read it, getting critic and then trying to apply that critic as I read each line and fixed them.

    Though sad part is none of my process helps me spot mistakes like your and you're lol.

    So what is your process?
     
  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Usually pretty bad. Light editing happens on the go, so the spelling and grammar won't be atrocious the second time around. The biggest changes come from realizing something doesn't make sense, or getting some new, irresistible idea that must - be - implemented.

    Just last night I was polishing my and @T.Trian's manuscript, and we realized the MC wouldn't use her helmet to block a door. In the old version, she may have, but after we realized future helmets would have a lot of useful functions, the helmet is no longer just a helmet, but a mini computer, you don't wanna take that off and risk leaving it behind. Also, we added radiation to the area she's exploring, which came from a realization of 'duh, there'd totally be radiation present!', so using her helmet to keep a door open seems even double-dumb.

    So, lots of re-writing ensued....

    My question is: people who write sci-fi, how do you make things make sense the first time around? Do you plan your world for 5 years before starting writing? Or do you stop yourself from implementing new technologies no matter how cool because implementing them would affect the world as a whole and there'd be too much re-writing to be done? :superconfused:
     
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  18. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    A draft of anything is always going to suck. What a draft is is you're trying to get down what you have in your head; an essence of something. Trying to capture that on a piece of paper is never going to happen. Thus, every draft will never match up to it and you'll always be saying to yourself, "that's not right."

    I don't even know what you're asking, to be honest. Let's review:

    Of course they are. Did you think they would come out perfect or something or even remotely like how you had it in your head? You probably forgot about a bunch of things like character motivation and the fact that your MC had to have a way to eat and live and survive and so forth and not just live on some plot you created that they'd just mindlessly do.

    I think a lot of other people do, but I don't. I'm perfect. Everything I do is perfect. I'm a GOOD writer. I NEVER have to make more than the first draft. I just send it in and they publish it and they go, "Oh my God! This is perfect! Send me more!" they'll say. And I'm like, "Uh, okay," and then I do and $$$.

    But no, really, I think everyone does poorly their first time writing a book. I think one of the hardest things to realize is to see just how hard you suck at something when so badly you want to be good at it and you realize how much farther you have to go to get there; that you want to be good NOW and not do all the work that comes before it. Except me of course. I'm perfect.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2015
  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    My first drafts are likely just as bad, if not worse, than Twilight.

    Is it liberating? Yes. On the flip-side, I know I'd have to edit 200+ pages of crap at the end, but I try not to think about it. :D I might consider doing the 'edit-as-I-go' approach eventually.
     
  20. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    I edit as I go with prose. It means my first drafts come up pretty tight but the flip side is that it takes a lot longer to get words on the page: I can be too critical of what I've written sometimes and never finish. I also think it bears relation to how you plot. My plotting often barely covers two sides of a napkin, so I need to keep fairly heavily on top of what's going on to make sure I end up where I wanted to end up. Better plotters may find they can hammer out first drafts without editing because they know exactly where they're going and they've done all the prep work.

    That's me, OP, but it's important you work with what gets you to an end point you're satisfied with before you start picking the process to pieces to optimise it.
     
  21. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I honestly can't answer this question as I'm still on my first draft. I'd like to say it is utter rubbish and move on however, like my fellow 'forumteers' my first draft appears to be my final draft as I also edit as I go.

    One thing I do is multiple drafts, almost like parallel universes, and will then merge them into something enjoyable to read. This is a totally dysfunctional way to write, but so far it works for me (says a lot about me)
     
  22. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    We've never just read through a single draft of any of our stories: there's always something to fix, usually something big either needs fixing or then we have to implement new ideas. Not to mention how it seems there's always a few sentences we could word better or cut out.

    Seriously, if our WIP is done after 2 more drafts, I'll be surprised. And yeah, I really don't think you could even recognize the current draft as the same story as the first draft, which was grade Z shit. Oh well, guess I can't complain too much as long as we keep progressing :D
     
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  23. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are many arguments for multiple drafts. Here's one more. Once you've developed a cohesive narrative (which means at least one draft has been written) now you have a playground to mess around in. When I go back to a specific section, look at a paragraph, and get wild- that's what matters.

    For example.

    John woke up.
    John ate breakfast.
    John went to work
    John got fired
    John came home early to find his wife in bed with the neighbor
    John killed himself


    Now that I have the entire story, I can go back to any one of those scenes and make it non generic. It doesn't have to be just a breakfast scene anymore. Maybe John is going crazy with his toddler child. They're having a cereal fight, something that makes John both juvenile and sweet. I know this is important because John's life is about to get very shitty. I want to travel back in time and let John really live his last moment of happiness.Then the wife comes down and screams at them. There's my first display of domestic oppression (foreshadowing John getting fired).

    This is similar to what @Ka_Trian said with their helmet. That's not necessarily a detail you will realize before finishing draft 1, because their world is not yet fully realized.
     
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  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    We all have our preferred methods, but I'd say there are only two rules writers must stick to, if they want to publish a good story :

    1) You must finish your entire story.

    2) You must edit your finished story to make it the best it can be.

    If this means re-imagining, re-writing (or cutting) large portions of what you spent months editing to perfection at the time you wrote it—so be it. Grit your teeth and do it. This has nothing to do with creating perfect sentences, paragraphs and chapters. It has to do with whether these perfect pieces of your story actually do create a perfect whole—and you won't know if you have a perfect whole until it's done. Stories and characters and style can morph into different shapes during the course of writing, and your finished product must read as if none of these changes ever took place. How you get to that point is up to you, but you need to get there.

    Don't be in a rush to publish, just because you can. Make sure the story works, and works well.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2015
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  25. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    Most of my first drafts are very similar to the end result. That's mainly because I write the sentence that I believe is best every single time. That makes a first draft time-consuming, but I don't have to edit nearly as much.
     

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