Michille: First Draft Fun

During a recent two-week break between workshops, I read through my entire first draft – all 45,000 words there is of it. This is the third manuscript I’ve written. The first two went on paper much faster than this one. I started working on this one a couple years ago but a bad experience (story for another day) caused me to stop writing. I got back into it when I enrolled in McDaniel College’s Romance Writing Program. Through the first year, I didn’t get a lot of new words on the page because I was so immersed in learning craft. Now it is time to finish this manuscript, but I had lost the story, hence the full start to finish read of what I had on the page.

For this read, I didn’t want to take the time to stop and fix anything right then. I just wanted to get a handle on a story that has been years in the making. I found some interesting things. I loved some of the scenes, like the one when Genny wakes up the morning after a big scene and is flustered and disoriented and fumbles around on the page before she gets herself together. When I read it, I thought, “Yes. That is exactly what Genny would do in that situation.”

For every good scene or spot-on bit, I had a head scratcher. There is a scene where Genny is disoriented and muzzy-headed and Luke lets her drive herself home. What? Luke would never do that. And there is a scene when Luke calls Sarah and she tells him she’ll meet him at the hospital and she never shows up. For these, I need to really look at what is happening and figure out what should be happening. Should Luke call a cab for Genny or take her home himself? Should Genny even have her car or did she take public transport? Is Sarah the right person for Luke to call in that situation? The glaring holes need some think time to clean them up.

Other problems made me laugh when I read them, but are easy to fix. The dress changes from a red sheath to a blue skirted chiffon number, the hair starts off up then is down then is up again, Genny has to clean up dog barf after the cat barfed, a coworker’s name changes mid-scene, and many, many other funnies like that.

I made some margin notes, wrote 14 pages of notes, and revised the outline. We are working on character right now in class so I plan to use my character arc analysis, which includes looking at turning points and how they affect the character, to fix some of the plot holes and to help inform what Luke or Genny or Sarah really would do in the situations they find themselves in.

What are you fixing right now and what is your plan of attack?

10 thoughts on “Michille: First Draft Fun

  1. OMG, cat barf! LOL. I have a mystery barfy cat — not sure which one. That’s a perfect, realistic detail to put in a contemporary novel when the pressure is on and things are going from bad to worse. I know my cat seems to time it just when I’m having a mini crisis!

    Thanks for sharing those. I am probably due for a re-read, as well. I’m trying to figure out where I really, really want to start. I feel my current first scene is too backstory, but the problem with starting with the action is that it is too action-y. People’s heads will spin. I need a middle ground.

    • I have 3 different opening scenes. It is hard to figure out exactly when the beginning is. Most stories have stuff that goes on well before the first page that is related to how the characters got to the first page and it is hard to know how much the reader needs of all that backstory (and when they need it).

      • I’m trying to figure out where my first scene lies, too. At first, it started perhaps a bit too far into the story. Then it started wayyy too early. Now that I am going to start revisions, I need to work on that.

        • The first scene is so crucial. It introduces the main characters and main conflict. See Jilly’s comment below about tying it to the last scene, too. I forgot about that part. Right now, I have all my first scenes (scene 1.0, 1.1. 1.2) and I’ll figure out which one is the best, or I could possibly write a whole new one by the time I’m finished.

  2. I just wrote a new opening scene, too! And I’ve been working on this draft for three years. One of the reasons I’m thinking of joining NaNoWriMo this year is just to get this puppy finished, however lousy it might be in the first draft. Plus, then afterwards, a person can amuse oneself by looking at hairstyles changing in mid-scene.

  3. Guess what, ladies – I have a new opening scene too! It’s rough and ready but I think it’s a better start than the previous one. I’m not spending any more time on it until I get right to the end of the rewrite as who knows what might happen before I get to the end? I’ll have to tie the beginning to the end, so when I’m sure of my final scene I’ll do a lot more work on the beginning.

    Of course, since I tweaked everything in the first scene, nothing else makes sense any more. There’s really no point reading the whole ms as so much of it has to change. I am re-reading scene by scene as I re-write to see what works and is worth keeping. It’s not half as much as I thought…

  4. Everything needs work right now, of course. It’s just a first draft, and I’m a pantser. But I do think that the first scene is what will drive my story: starting close to the action, which activates the rest of the novel, but allowing just enough of a lead-in to get folks inside my MC’s head/life. Sigh. And all I can do is read what Jenny has written on her blog, and what some other’s have written to share about craft. And maybe find a book or two that will be useful. I’m so glad you ladies have your workshop group and Jenny to help you through this! (Envy, envy, envy … are my eyes glowing green yet?) 🙂

    • For class we used ‘Story’ by Robert McKee and ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers’ by Renni Browne and Dave King. Justine really likes ‘Goal, Motivation & Conflict’ by Debra Dixon. I just picked up ‘The Story Template’ by Amy Deardon. I haven’t read it yet but I’m hoping for some valuable nuggets.

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