Sunday, March 8, 2020

Floundering and first drafts

In retrospect, a finished story can feel "meant to be." It's been honed and rewritten to the point that it seems as if it always was that way.

When I reread early drafts, though, I'm surprised at how much floundering I did, how many wrong turns I took. Entire scenes, chapters, or subplots ended up on the cutting-room floor. Rounded, complex characters started out as flat cliches. That important plot twist--wasn't even there yet!

A first draft can feel like a journey through unfamiliar territory with only a sketchy map (that would be the outline, which is subject to change or reinterpretation). Sometimes the words come slowly. Sometimes the previous day's work is an obvious derailment, and gets deleted. Sometimes one writes three pages and finds that the final paragraph of those three pages--that's where the real meat is. The rest was just throat-clearing. 

"Holy cow," the writer may say, in the thick of the first draft. "Was first drafting always this inefficient?"