Well, my Date With Draft One of my novel The Renegades hit last Saturday, and I've spent the last seven days reading over it in preparation for the Draft Two process. And I have discovered two things:
1 - I'm not as bad a writer as I thought I was!
2 - I'm also not as good a writer as I thought I was.
It's a strange thing, to reach both conclusions at the same time, but then this isn't maths we're dealing with here, where every question only has one right answer (which probably also explains why I'm hopeless at maths. I'm a rubbish conformist.)
I suppose the best way to explain it is to say that the bits of Draft One that were good were... well, actually good, like a real, proper writer wrote them. While the bits that were bad... well, apart from the fact that I found myself guilty of some of the very things I'd been picking at in the writing of other authors, I also found myself at one point thinking "Jeez, this is note 163 - and I haven't even got three-quarters through the book yet!" (And my numbered notes are just the ones detailing changes too big to write as a one-liner on the manuscript... )
So I've learned something new from this exercise - something that, had I been taught it in a writing class or told it by an experienced author, I probably wouldn't have believed it. It's something I've had to learn the hard way - by actually going through the process for real.
Before now, I always thought Draft One was where I'd be doing the bulk of the donkey work. That the long, hard slog of actually getting the story down, from beginning to end, for the very first time, would be the most time-consuming part of the whole project. Everything after that would just be tweaking and polishing all the stuff I've already got down - editing what already exists. That won't take nearly as long to do - it'll be much quicker and easier than Draft One was. Wouldn't it?
I can see now how wrong that idea is. The real, sleeves-up graft is only just beginning.
Draft Two is not just a matter of dusting off Draft One and making it better; it's about upping the game considerably. It's about putting in all the parts of the story that are still missing (and my god, there's a lot more of that than I thought there'd be.) It's about finding and correcting every single plot, character and world mistake (and it pains me to confess there are a lot more of those than I thought there'd be too.) But most of all, it's about making every single part of the whole book better - even the bits that are already pretty good. It's not just an editing exercise - almost every chapter will have to be pretty much completely rewritten.
And that's what I've learned; Draft One is not, as I'd previously thought, the block of marble from which you carve and polish your literary David - it is merely the wireframe on which the whole thing is built. That means it won't look like anything much until I start slapping the clay on top - and that, clearly, doesn't happen until Draft Two, the real donkey work of the novelwriting process.
So... if Draft One was the conception stage, it looks like Draft Two is the pregnancy. I wonder if it causes weird cravings, backache and swollen feet too?
But I'm not downhearted - far from it. It's actually quite exciting, and I'm up for the challenge. Well let's face it - if I'm going to fall at this hurdle I don't have much chance of making it as a bona fide novelist in the future, do I? So bring it on, Renegades Draft Two! Meet me at the computer in ten minutes time - 'cause you and me have an appointment, and I don't like tardiness...