Wednesday, November 17, 2010


First drafts -- how I hate 'em. Some, I'm sure, find the experience of filling a blank page invigorating. But to me it feels as though I'm being asked to build a mountain ex nihilo and then scale the blasted thing, skinning knees and elbows all the way up as I slip on scree.

But there's this moment that comes every time as I near the last page, the penultimate paragraph, the final sentence. It's like cresting a summit, and there it is, the panorama of the countryside, spread out and glowing as though waiting for you and you alone. Off to the side lies an undeveloped theme that could be brilliant if only it wound through that character over there. The plot slopes nicely, though it gets a little rocky while sliding down into the surrounding setting. It isn't a perfect view. Still, it's yours, and you can now see what needs changing, what can remain as is.

And if you're like me, right about then you may find yourself thinking how the climb doesn't seem to have been that bad after all.

(Picture: CC 2009 by
Matteo De Felic)


C. N. Nevets said...

Honestly, I'll never understand how you rough draft people do it. You build the mountain and then climb it.

Then you look down, see what needs changing, and climb it again.

Then you look down, see what needs changing, and climb it again.

Then you look down, see what needs changing, and climb it again.

I would go insane.

Davin Malasarn said...

A few years ago, first drafts were much easier for me to write. These days they're very intimidating and I try to avoid it at all costs.

Loren Eaton said...


Actually, I usually do it at least four times. Which probably qualifies me as being mentally unbalanced.

Loren Eaton said...


I feel so much better when that initial draft is done. Then I can go on to revision, which I like much more.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

Oh, you would hate my yesterday evening, then, out of bitterness.

I wrote a small number of pages (3-4, over the course of an hour), practically without using the delete key. And I enjoyed every moment of it, watching the characters revel in quiet moments of peace before the rug is pulled out from under them, then rage and prepare to unleash hell.

Unrelatedly, your four times is nothing. Current popular-fantasy golden boy Brandon Sanderson revises his stories, on average, 7-12 times from start to finish. And who knows how many times fantasy master Pat Rothfuss goes through his manuscripts; he goes from final rough draft to final draft over the course of four years or so, working 12 hours a day for much of that time.

Moral: getting published means you have more time on your spend in revisions, apparently.

Loren Eaton said...

I'm going to go sulk now ...