Tuesday, April 1, 2014

First Draft Completed, Now What?

Good evening all!

I'm back from a long, long, long hiatus from the blog, but it was for the best of reasons. I spent every day since early December working on a new project, the first draft of a story that I'm calling 'Air'. I set a weekly word goal of 7,777 words  (don't ask me why...seemed like a good a number as any), and each week I made sure that I hit or surpassed my goal.

I'm here to tell you that I've done it! I now stand at the far end of that tunnel, the four-month-long tunnel in which we spoke in front of at the time of my last post, when I said that I was going to be starting a new project soon. Do you see me leaning in from behind its stony lip? Can you make out that thing I'm waving in my hand while I grin a victorious grin? Well, I'll tell you. It's a completely-finished first draft! And it's so much more. It's 129,000 words worth of clay. There's some semblance of what it can become. I can see it even now, though to most it is still lost in the pudgy, shapeless folds that looks more like mechanically separated chicken than anything else. That's okay. I am armed with my scalpel... ready to carve something beautiful that everyone (hopefully) can enjoy. And yes...it's a bit daunting.

You see, I've written a few short stories before, two of which have gotten published in magazines. I've written the first draft of a 100k novel but it was full of dead ends and obstacles that were too mountainous for my level of experience. I (temporarily) put it aside. Some day, I'll go back to it, I swear. For now, my experience with actual editing stops with the completion of those aforementioned short stories. 5K words compared to what I'm looking at with 'Air'...big difference... a helluva big difference.

I've been doing a lot of research on different methods of editing. A lot of what I'm planning is being pulled directly from Chuck Wendig's playbook. You can find it here. It's a great and very helpful post, one every hopeful writer should read.

One of Chuck's first suggestions is to get feedback from beta readers. OK, great. But there's a problem already. I've shown up to the marathon, just shy of the gunshot that will start me barreling towards the finish line, only to realize that I left my damn running shoes at home. My story is chock full of unfinished scenes, plot holes and dialogue so far out there that a conversation between two crack whores would seem more intellectual. Some characters have mullets and drug problems in scene 10, but then are corporate CEOs with sexy last names by scene 20. I won't even go into all the time paradoxes and location inconsistencies.

So what am I to do? I can't send this slosh of horse manure to beta readers. It'll make their head explode, and that won't help me. I think I have a plan figured out. Before I'm ready for beta readers, I will take care of the following:

  • Characters: For each of the major and minor characters, create a character-detail page. This page will have descriptive information, personality information, history, notes, hobbies, mannerisms, etc. Create a keyword out of the character's full name and link it to this detail page. (I use Scrivener, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Click here for an idea of what I'm talking about when it comes to keywords. Then search all scenes for that character. If the character has a relevant presence in a scene, attach the character's keyword to the scene. After visiting all of those scenes, you'll not only have a comprehensive list of all scenes in which this character participates, you'll also have the description page instantly available to make sure all the character info jives across all the scenes. I'll then do this for all the characters...well...all the characters that deserve it.
  • Timeline: Create a timeline on a separate page that has all the major and the more important minor events that take place in the story. Also include the ages of the participating characters when these events occurred. Shuffle the scenes around to the proper order based off the timeline (Again...Scrivener to the rescue. One of the beauties of Scrivener is the ability to easily move scenes around).
  • Marking Plots/Subplots: This goes hand in hand with the timeline bullet. Just as I created keywords for the characters, create keywords for the plots/subplots and attach them to the scenes as well. The beauty here is that if I want to navigate a particular plot from beginning to end to see how it flows, I can do a search for that plot's keyword and be shown only the scenes that have that keyword attached. Awesomeness to the nth degree!
  • Places: Create a keyword for all the relevant places that pop up more than once in the story and attach it to the scenes where the location is mentioned. Also create a location-description page if necessary and attach the keyword there as well. Just like for the characters, what we have is an easy way to find all the relevant scenes and make sure the descriptions all jive. 

I think that after I complete these things, the draft will be ready to see the light of day... at least to a select few beta readers. At that point, I'd love to share how the process worked (or not). Give me a two weeks or so...I'll be back

Thanks for reading!



  1. Good luck. I am in the midst of the very same process. I gave myself a month to get it reader ready. Have you set a goal like you did with your word count? That seemed to work well for you.

    1. Thanks Kat! Good luck to you as well. Though I know what I want to get done prior to it handing it over to readers, I really am clueless on how long it should take to finish those steps I wrote about. A month seems like a fair goal.