I have just finished editing the first draft of one of my works in progress.
This story takes place on a fantasy cruise liner sailing on a chocolate ocean with a permanent rainbow sheet hanging from the sky. In it, Ferris wakes up on the boat, but he’s from the real world. He has no idea how he got there and has found that everyone is gearing up for the Winter Masquerade (which is the title of the book).
Two things have struck me as they often do with a first draft. Let’s call the first one Yoda-isms. It’s a term someone on Twitter used which perfectly describes those sentences that don’t make sense. And let’s face it, on a first draft, some sentences are just bad.
A couple of examples of my bad sentences.
With their hands still grasped, Molly swung her arm, swaying Camilla gently as if they were children displaying their playful affection for one another.
I’ve written in large letters, CLARIFY, next to this one. I can see what the image is, but this sentence is clumsy. It also doesn’t flow from the sentence before.
I felt safer than if I made any move to escape her presence.
I will change this to – I felt safe not making any sudden moves.
The second thing about a first draft is pacing.
This is a manuscript which needs action scenes. I wasn’t confident I’d pulled them off. As I was writing the first half of the book, I was fast tracking my ‘chapter by chapter’ blueprint, bringing scenes in earlier than planned. I was pleasantly surprised the pace of these connected scenes work.
I was sitting in a hotel room in Broome on a work trip when I wrote the scenes where the Winter Masquerade actually takes place, devotedly typing into the night. I liked the way these pivotal chapters were shaping up with a healthy dose of surrealism and self evaluation.
Reading them for my edit, I find everything happens too fast and the scene is confusing. But this has made me smile. I want to double the length of this book and this is the perfect opportunity to re-imagine this sequence. I know what I was trying to say, I just need to make it clearer.
In contrast, my other WIP, The Midnight Man, is currently at fifth draft.
And although much of it is polished, there are brand new chapters which have only recently been written, so these are first draft scenes. I won’t know if they work until I revisit it and prepare for the sixth draft. These new scenes change the motives of one of the characters to make him more likeable. They also make characters who haven’t met, meet in fresh dream sequences. Plus, I’ve rewritten the final chapter.
But there is one chapter that doesn’t work. A pivotal conversation takes place, but the dialogue doesn’t gel. I’ve redrafted it several times but now realise it has to be rewritten from scratch.
That’s why I wait months between drafts.
On works that are advanced, you need that time between edits so the scenes that you’ve read a zillion times don’t go over your head. You need to re-experience them so that the fresh scenes can be seen in context. Do they work? Does the story still flow? Are there any continuity issues?
Both these Works In Progress are fantasies. Both talk about very different gay relationships and although I can see similarities in theme, the two are different. And it’s easy to keep them this way simply because one is closer to being complete than the other.
One surreal world has been established. The other is still a work in progress.