Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First Drafts and Falling in Love

Back in the fall, when I was almost through a second pass of my novel, Marks of a Horsekeeper, a new voice popped in my head. She came unbidden, on my way to work, pretty much fully formed. I scrawled down some notes, wrote about six variations on a first page, and put her away. My writer friend, M.A. Scott, blogged of this phenomenon here, how as writers, new ideas often come when we're just about finished with old ideas.

Now, my new protagonist, Amber, has been with me for about three months, telling me her story in first draft form.  She's a hillbilly kid, stuck in a small town, trying to find a way out. But her family is dysfunctional and her attempts to change her life are pretty dysfunctional, too. I find myself wondering if anyone is going to like her. She's incredibly flawed. She lies, to others, to herself, but at her heart she's just a kid with unstellar role models and incredible spirit (along with a pretty big sexual appetite), despite her raising.

For the first time, I am absolutely giddy with the thought of revising. This draft is a mess. Plot holes, motivation gaps, too many justs, thats, I's, and me's. But this kid is real. She's messy. She's not perfect. She has aches and hopes and dreams and disappointments. I want to do her justice and it scares me that I won't. And I want her to find peace, inside herself, because as women, isn't that where our strength ultimately rests?

At about 200 pages in, I've passed that horrible page 100 place of feeling like the whole thing is garbage, and am in love. The climax is just around the bend and, hopefully, Amber's going to figure some things out without taking everyone down with her. It's a great feeling, knowing the story is so close to being clutched in your hand. And it's a great feeling, to get to the place of finding the heart of your story.

In revisions, I'll find the heartbeat.

What about you? Love your first drafts? Hate your first drafts? Somewhere in between? When do new ideas come to you?

And don't forget to visit Denise Jaden's blog and sign up for March Madness. Last year I signed on and for the past year have continued it under the Twitter hashtag #wipmadness. It's a great group effort to get the writing work done with encouragement and cheering along the way.


  1. My first drafts are always garbage, but I kind of like that because then I can polish it from there. Getting the first draft out is always the hardest part for me :)

  2. I'm in love with everything during the first draft stage. It's when I go back and read it that I realize it's mostly garbage. But at least it's out there and I have a complete project to work with.
    Yay for finding the heartbeat of your story!

  3. Glad I'm not a writer. Always thought a draft was cold air coming into a room.

    1. This cracked me up. Yep, there's that, too.

  4. I love the way you spoke about Amber. Because you love her, we will have the chance to love her too. And that's awesome! I love drafting--the wild abandon of it, the discovery. But I love revision too, for the same reason you said--that's when the story really comes to life for me.

  5. Oh dear, after just hacking my way through my first draft, I have no idea. Part of me loves it. Most of me hates it. I'm scared to hear back from people on it, because it's sooo different from my normal fare, but I can't hope but have a spark of hope. Hah! I think this basically falls into the "I'm confused about it still" category :)

  6. I like my first drafts, but I love my revisions. There are parts of a first draft that I certainly do love from the beginning, but I know so much will change that I try to stay a bit distant so I can tackle the revisions with some level of honesty.

    And I always have one or two new ideas sprouting before my current WIP is done!


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