Some say that the first draft is the beginning of the story. That all we need to do is get the story down in the first draft, beginning to end. Then we can start rewriting it for the second draft. We can clean up the prose, cut down on the fluff, align the story, pull the threads closer and knit ourselves a mean novel.
From recent experience rewriting Killer Application I am not so sure that the first draft of a novel is, as I originally thought, actually a first draft. In my estimation the first draft is more like the clay a potter makes before making the pottery. Or even the dough the baker beats for hours or days before baking the bread.
The first draft, although lovely in its completeness, is just that, the lump of unmolded clay or unbaked bread. All of the ingredients for a good story are there in pretty much the right form and consistency, with all of the possibilities that a wide-open horizon can give.
Only now do I realise that the rewriting, that which defines an author (as I have been told / read many times over), is where we really begin to hone our craft, to shape the dough into something special, something unique, something extremely personal.
Here is where we get to put our own touches in. Like my grandmother baking the boiled egg smack dab in the middle of her meatloaf (oh for a slice of that meatloaf now, so succulent and crumbly all at the same time!), a good author can work in their sense of humour, personal preferences, world view, perspectives, thoughts and feelings into the story without letting it take over.
All the while this weaving is happening (apologies for the inter-changeable metaphors – rewriting really is like a cross between pottery, baking, knitting, weaving and eating egg-centred meatloaf all at the same time, seriously!) the story itself is given new life. Characters that were stretched too thin are removed or fleshed out, killed or fattened (only to be killed off later or even reborn, depending on the angle of the story and where the rewriting takes us).
In truth, I find the rewriting almost more exciting than the original writing. Okay, that is not entirely true. This is a different kind of excitement for I am watching the story mature and grow under my own hands. I get to watch the characters delve into themselves and pull out wonders of unique personality with which I can help them along, or change the story itself. Anything is possible right now.
I am excited by the process of writing. I can see why Philip K Dick used to get depressed after finishing a novel. (Not that I am comparing my writing to Philip K Dick, just the sense of accomplishment at each stage of the writing, and the subsequent emotional endorphins triggered by that feeling of ongoing success and creation.) It makes perfect sense.
I managed to keep myself away from my ebook publishing games this evening, mostly because I wanted to get some good writing time in before going to bed (not too late this time!).
That’s it from me, for now.
Til next time, enjoy life,