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 The first draft ... How often is it good enough?

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Charlie Moore
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PostSubject: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:00 pm

Here is a question for you. How often is the first draft of something your seriously writing good enough as your end product? Now, before everyone jumps all over me with "the first draft is never good enough" I am only referring to the overall body of your manuscript. Obviously, there will be a need for editing and tweeking of any first draft to refine and perfect it. But how often does this, the editing and tweeking, alter your original so much that you've created essentially something new. I submit that it doesn't happen to me very often (actually, it never has) and I suspect it doesn't happen often to others either.

For those of you who have altered a first draft to the point of creating essentially a new or different story, what were your reasons?

Charlie
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:25 pm

Hi Charlie,

I wrote The Power of Persuasion in 1998. It took six weeks. I wrote 2,000 words a day, every day. The final manuscript was full of errors and needed editing. I left it untouched until the end of 2006. It took over a year to rewrite and edit. I took out one character completely, changed the main character to someone completely different and changed the name and characteristics of the narrator.

The reasons for changing? I didn't like one of the characters and felt the story improved enormously once that character had been removed. Having removed the character, the main character didn't fit so well into the story so I was forced to make changes.

The name change for the narrator came about because I renamed the main character F. William D'Arcy (Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice) so the narrator had to be Elizabeth (Bennet) but instead of Lizzy, I chose Beth.

The rewrite was extremely difficult but I was really pleased with the end result.

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Sue
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:20 pm

I am considering a child's book for publication. The author copyrighted the book in 1991. Now she wants to publish it.

She has changed names, graphics, and some of the basic story. I guess the longer you wait to do anything with it, the more changes you make. You change as the years go by, so why wouldn't what you write change too?
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Charlie Moore
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:51 pm

Yes, there are those manuscripts with a long shelf life. I can see how changes could come about when they're resurrected. Perhaps an author has been told how to make his/her work marketable and it may require a major rewrite. Or the reason could be something different like a new style or genre preference.

Charlie
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lin
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:35 am

I spent decades writing for publication and very frequently sent in first drafts, which got published and paid for.

Books seem trickier. With the much longer time frame involved in submission and publication of books, why wouldn't the writer want to edit and make changes?
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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 10:29 am

It's a two edged sword, Charlie. I have written things as I would talk, straight to the point, and often with a bit of humor. Then it got tweaked. When it was finished it lacked the punch and was rather dull. Fortunately I learned from that and always keep my original intact. I do changes saved to another file.
On the other hand, after sleeping on something and taking a fresh look, one can see where it can be improved upon and that's when the tweaking can benefit.
It's good to get a second opinion on delicate sentences or paragraphs. How it "hits" another person may be different from what we intended.
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Sue
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 10:49 am

I, too, keep my first draft. You never know when you might need it. Except for blogging I usually have someone else read what I have written just to get feedback or a reaction. That tells me whether or not I am going to reach public with it or not.
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JoElle
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:22 am

Charlie Moore wrote:
... For those of you who have altered a first draft to the point of creating essentially a new or different story, what were your reasons?

I don't think I've ever polished, edited, or tweaked a story after the first draft to the point of changing it that much.

Most of the major changes that I made in my first novel, were made before I finished the first draft. These changes were not enough to change the story. I changed the femal MC's age several times. I changed her job and housing situation a couple of times. And they weren't exactly changes, but more like discoveries, however, I had characters develop in ways that surprised me.

What I usually do with my first draft (I write YA fantasy) is print up several copies. Usually I go to Kinkos because they are fast and it is a lot of pages. Then I send copies of the MS to my mother, my brother (he has three teen girls), and my sister (she has two). Then my mother and nieces read them and I tell them to go at with the red pen.

Meanwhile I have printed up my own copy and sit down with the red pen and my lap top.

Based on their suggestions and remarks, some of which I take and some I leave, and my own editorial work ... the final draft goes through some tweaking and polish. But story remains intact.

Most of the evolving and real changing happens as I write.

By the way ...
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Dick Stodghill
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:14 pm

As Lin pointed out, there are different types of writing and each has its own approach. During my years as a newspaper reporter I used each. For example, a reporter writing on deadline must get it right the first time because that is the only opportunity there will be. When writing a feature (a think piece) there is time to work out the bugs. When writing a column, there usually is a little time for making improvements and it is vital that the writer uses that time to its full advantage.
Writing mystery fiction is entirely different. The story frequently changes as it progresses. The writer must eliminate the contrived passages. The solution originally in mind may prove inferior as the story moves along. Character development may eventually change everything in the original idea. Then, whenever possible, the writer tries to develop a "second ending," a final twist.
I know many professional mystery writers and can't think of a one who doesn't make some serious changes after finishing the initial draft, even those who have written a detailed outline before beginning.
And that is the beauty of writing on a computer: you are always working on the final draft even though in the end it may bear little resemblance to the original. When all work was done on a typewriter, that's when writing was really a tough job.
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JoElle
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:12 pm

Oh my goodness! More wonderful inventions!
I am thankful for the invention of the laptop and Word!!
And air ride suspension and air conditioning and condo trucks!

I would hate to try to write my novels in a truck in the middle of summer before these inventions ... on a typewriter!!!!

Gee am I spoiled or what???
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madhatter
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:08 pm

Not a thing wrong with being spoiled, Elfie...

So far, I have only modified here and there from my first draft. Mostly, moving things around as suggested by an editor--to make the first few pages stronger.

I haven't--thus far--changed so much that the book is too different.

Then again, if I look at it too long, I see all kinds of issues. Some times it pays just to STOP.
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Wed Aug 20, 2008 9:14 am

Charlie,
When I was writing true crime stories for magazines back in the late 60s to early 70s to supplement my income as a journalist with four children, I would sit down to turn out a 5,000-word story in a first and only draft. I wrote well over a hundred of these, all published. I was doing it simply for the money, but I enjoyed the process.
For serious work, my novels, I consider my first draft my outline draft. In the process of completing that first draft, I might abandon thousands of words to start over again. I find the characters redirecting the work all the time. That first draft is usually a solid base for the next two or three drafts until I arrive at the hoped for book.
Keep writing,
-Ken Crowe
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ghostposts
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Mon Sep 01, 2008 10:51 pm

I think it depends on the story. I often have first drafts that only need a bit of tweaking.
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lin
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:15 am

madhatter wrote:
Not a thing wrong with being spoiled

I think it's something we all should aspire to
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RetiredName
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PostSubject: Re: The first draft ... How often is it good enough?   Mon Dec 29, 2008 6:58 am

In my experience, first drafts are rarely ever good enough. It can happen, just like a meteor hitting your house can happen.

I write straight through then go back and revise. I go through several drafts and by the time I'm done my first draft is painful to behold.

Robert Heinlein, toward the end of his career, used to just finish the first draft then send it in. He could get away with doing that. Us mere mortals usually can't. Very Happy
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