Reflections on Revising a 1st Draft

So, after over a year of solid, quality procrastination, I have finally completed first-round revisions on book one in my YA Fantasy trilogy, The Myriad Chronicles. This project took roughly two years to write in its entirety. The first book was over 145k words (post-revision a.k.a strategic butchering it is now about 132k) and I was as shocked as anyone when I actually finished it. The next two books are over 100k words each. Still need to hack those to bits one of these days.

Before this, I had only completed a handful of short stories. The idea that I could spew out over 350k words in two years would have defied credulity. And in all honesty, it still does.

TMC has many flaws. Of course it does. However, in the process of its creation, I learned some things.

I learned perseverance (otherwise known as bull-headed stubbornness) in the face of, well, everything. Because the real world does not want books to be written, apparently.

I learned how to grammar good. Mainly thanks to other people who grammar gooder. Much thanks.

I learned that it is not necessary to italicize everything for emphasis.

I learned that you can make yourself cry both happy and sad tears because these things that never happened to people who never existed are so damn emotional.

I learned that sleep is for the weak and the sane. I am neither.

But the most important thing I learned, for me at least, is that sometimes it takes time to understand what your story is. What it’s about, and who it’s about, and where it’s going. When I first began writing TMC, I really did not know who my characters were. It took three books to find out. I had to write them to properly know them.

The Myriad Chronicles plays with the idea that what we write and read could, somewhere, somewhen, be real. In my head, the characters I ‘create’ are quite real. They all have a voice of their own, and direct their destinies almost as much, if not more, than I. They certainly know the plot better than me. To be honest, they can be downright bossy. By writing a series of rather long novels, I had time and room to meet each of the characters; to argue with them, love them, hate them, and watch them grow.

Many of the scenes I cut and trimmed while revising book one were superfluous. Unnecessary internal monologues, conversations that dragged the plot down, chunks of descriptive paragraph, and so on. However, though the story is more streamlined without them, I now realize those scenes were important for me to write at the time because they helped me understand the story and the cast in a way that a tighter, better constructed plot would not have allowed. The process of muddling through all of that minutia was more for me than anything else, and I think it was necessary.

There is a lot of pressure in life to be ‘productive’ in the sense that we should constantly be churning out new content. And not just new content, but ‘perfect’ content. Of course perfection is extremely objective, and perhaps even mythological, but many still feel the pressure to attain it. I know that I do. But the process creating things was never meant to be perfect, I think. Creating something should take as long as it needs to. And if that means being a little messy in the process, then perhaps that is part of the beauty of it.

If you try to conform to what you believe is expected, to be perfect the first time around, you may miss out on some of the glorious madness that can bloom when you let your mind breathe. Because that’s what a first draft is for. You need to understand your story and your characters, even if half of what you know never makes it onto the page. It adds depth not only to the finished product, but to your own experience as a creator. As one of my favorite (if not my most favorite) authors once wisely said:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”― Terry Pratchett

In the end, though I had to tidy up the mess I made while writing that first draft, I’m glad I made it.

Oh, almost forgot. I also learned that snacks are a viable religion. Especially at 2AM.

P.S.

If anyone’s curious, you can read the 1st drafts of my trilogy free on Wattpad

Fay Lane | July 23, 2019

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