Last year in the run-up to Christmas when everything ground to a halt in snow-bound Britain and Heathrow had more iced-up aeroplanes on its runways than a flock of flamingos on a salt pan, I spent hours forced to slow down. My suitcase was packed, the desk cleared (as far as I’m able to clear it) and I waited. In one of those incredible long periods of more than 12 hours at a time over three days in the halls of Heathrow, I started a new novel. It was set on the coast of the place I was about to fly to, and started with a shipwreck. Perhaps I was metaphorically shipwrecked.
Now a year later I’m physically back on that coast having just flown out yesterday but this time with a completed first draft in my suitcase. It’s taken a year. (Am I the only writer who needs a year for a story to formulate?) Now begins the task of strengthening that tentative and fragile text. Time to assess.
In no particular order, I’ve come up with the following actions we can take to turn first drafts into second drafts.
Cutting out the Flack
Measuring Inner Change
Strengthening Point of View
Freezing Moments in Time
Raising the Stakes
Developing the Protagonist
Developing the Antagonist
Discovering the True Theme
Writing the story to its Fullest Potential.
Making the story more Robust.
Deepen the Dilemma
I’m sure you can all add to this list. But with my coffee hitting the adrenalin spot, it's suddenly struck me how many of the things we do with a first draft, are things we can apply to our lives… especially when a New Year is fast approaching. This could get very psycho-analytical. I might start feeling very flawed!
And first drafts often feel flawed… particularly if you write intuitively rather than with blow by blow planning. The bundle of newly printed-out pages waiting in my unpacked suitcase, is fragile. Over-exposure to too many friends or family or even an agent, while a story has just moved from something inchoate to a more fully fledged shape with a beginning, a middle and an end, can leave any writer feeling undermined.
At the start of the New Year, I’m not going to put myself through the rigours of analytical appraisal (even though my family might think it a good idea) nor am I going to be too harsh on my first draft. I’m going to take it for what it is… a first draft… slightly flawed but with great potential!!! That list can be put on hold for a while. I'm drinking my coffee and enjoying the view hoping for a few dolphins in the Bay.
PS. Have just thought of another one for the list... Cutting a lot out!