I finished the rough draft of my first Science-Fiction novel, Rifted, a few days ago. I was ridiculously happy to finish the novel (my fourth, by the way!) and celebrate another Draft Day. I started the novel on November 1, the first day of NaNoWriMo, and finished my 108,100 word draft EXACTLY 100 days later on February 8.
A novel in 100 days. I think that’s pretty cool.
But the thing is, my novel isn’t done yet. In fact, it’s far from complete. At this point, I would be embarrassed to let another human being read it.
When I finish a novel, I set it aside for a few days. Then, I begin my first read-through. For me, this is where some of the hardest work happens. My first reading of a rough draft is always a close reading. I look at the content and craft hard enough to burn a hole in my computer screen. I cut and rewrite. I tear things apart. Sometimes I rebuild, and sometimes I let the pieces lie.
I tend to slip a lot of passive verbs into my rough draft. And that’s okay. In the rough draft, my main goal is to get the story out of my head and shove it onto a workable medium. The rough draft it where I let myself be creative more than correct. Sometimes the result isn’t pretty. Not yet, anyway. That’s why we authors revise. The purpose of the revision process is to find, flag, and fix those pesky passive verbs, overuse of participles, and other bad habits of writer craft.
(I have a lot of bad habits of writer craft).
My first read-through is always painfully slow. I flag sentences in a chapter. Then, I go back and examine every sentence I’ve flagged. I consider how to fix the problem, whether it’s clarity, content, or craft. It requires me to think about the words I’ve chosen and how I’ve used them.
Sometimes I come across larger issues. I’ve said before that one of the most difficult lessons to learn about the revision process is nothing is sacred. I don’t care how great a scene is. If it doesn’t work for the story, it has to go.
Check out this post to see what I mean.
By the time this read-through is done, I will probably have cut somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words. But I’ll likely have written an additional 20k to 30k words. Maybe more. I’ll heartlessly chop out the scenes that don’t work, and lovingly embellish the scenes that do. I’ll work until I think it’s perfect.
But I know it won’t be perfect yet.
I’ll set my new first draft aside for a few days. I’ll probably ask a few people to proof it for me. I’ll see what they find and make those corrections. After that, I’ll print it off (paper, I know, but it seriously helps me to have a hard copy) and go through the draft again.
Revise. Set aside. Repeat. Eventually, it’ll be ready.
I’ve finished another rough draft, and that’s awesome. It’s an accomplishment. Draft Day is always worth a little celebration. But it’s only the beginning. Now, the hard work begins.