Tag Archives: first draft

Shut the Front Door…There’s a Draft in Here!

Merriam-Webster.com lists thirteen definitions for the word draft.

Before I looked, I would have been hard pressed to come up with five or six. I mean who knew that “the force required to pull a plow or other implement” is called the draft?

Not me.

Plow pulling aside…In today’s post we will be focusing on definition 5-C – “a preliminary sketch, outline or version”.

Yes…the first draft, which, according to Ernest Hemingway, is always shit. (He really said it, look it up!).

Many first-time authors have trouble accepting this particular truth, but the smart ones come to terms with it quickly. It’s a matter of survival, really. Either you accept that your first draft is nothing more than a glorified outline or you’ll sit around wondering why nobody is reading it.

The trick for authors, at every level, is getting the draft from trash to smash.

Some of you have heard my process before – if you haven’t you can read about it here.

If you don’t know my process – and you didn’t click the link to read about it –  it involves a group of trusted beta readers who tell me, in their opinion, whether my latest work is any good or not – and why.

Naturally, without the first draft there is no novel, so the initial writing of the story is fairly important, but I am of the opinion that the beta-reading phase is the make-it or break-it part of the operation.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, this post is my annual announcement of the completion of another first draft.

My latest work is entitled 24 Minutes, and it is a vast departure from anything I have written before.

Without giving too much away, there is no Ike, no beach-side caper, no picturesque scenes along the ocean and no (or at least very little) humor.

I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of happened.

For the sake of clarity…I didn’t drift over to writing sci-fi, fantasy, or chic-lit (not that there’s anything wrong with any of them). 24 Minutes is still a crime-fiction story, but it has nothing in common with my previous nine novels (except for the “crime” part). The story revolves around a group of people trying to survive a situation most of us couldn’t even comprehend – and that’s as much of a spoiler I’m going to give you.

To be honest – writing something so different was, for me, a bit intimidating.

We can all identify with the secure feeling from always doing the thing we’re most comfortable with, but as a good friend once told me – life begins outside your comfort zone.

Several times during the course of creating this story I told myself “if you stop now, you can still write an Ike story and have it released before Christmas.”  For better or worse, I didn’t give in to that temptation. I kept going because, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I felt that this story was overdue. It has needed to be written for several years, by anybody. I just happened to be the one to do it.

Now it’s in the hands of my beta readers, and the nervousness is coming back.

I feel a little like Marty McFly… “What if they say I’m no good?”…but I’m a bit thick headed, so I’ll move forward, release it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

I mean, even The Beatles had a couple of songs they probably wished they hadn’t released.

Naturally, I hope it is well-received, but what’s the worst that can happen? People don’t like it and I go back to writing Ike stories. I don’t have a problem with that.

In the meantime, the dice have been rolled on 24 Minutes…let’s hope it isn’t crap!

 

As always – thank you for reading

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A First Draft 27 Years in the Making #amwriting

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

I finished the first draft of my latest novel.

Full Circle has, if you’ll pardon my turn-of-phrase, quite a storied history.

Cue the flashback music…

flashback

It all began in the summer of 1988.

Being a single parent with an eight-year-old son, I had very little in the way of a social life.

I also had very little in the way of money…so, I was on a constant quest to find new and creative ways to kill time.

One night, I don’t remember the exact moment, or what spurred the thought in me, I decided to write a book. It would be about Karma, more specifically, the old adage what goes around comes around. I actually had the title picked before I put pen to paper.

I’ve always been interested in the unexplained forces of the universe, probably as a result of watching The Twilight Zone during my formative years, so it seemed like a good theme for a book.

Twilight Zone

I dug out a spiral-bound five-subject notebook and a ball-point pen and started writing.

I had, what I thought, was a good concept, so I wrote about five chapters and gave them to my best friend’s wife ( an avid reader) and asked her to read it and tell me if I should keep going. She told me to continue, so I did.

Along around the fifteenth chapter I switched jobs and had to move, so the notebook went into a box and didn’t see the light of day for many, many months.

When I finally dug it out and decided to get back to it, my life was as hectic as a beehive in a tornado, so, needless to say, the notebook went back into the box.

You know how “life happens”?

Well, it kept happening to me for about eighteen years, at which time I found myself moving again…this time from Rhode Island to Florida…and the notebook was all but forgotten.

Six months after landing in the Sunshine State I had a dream which turned into my first novel, Living the Dream. Shortly after it was released, while writing Water Hazard, I remembered the book I had begun all those years ago and decided to make it my next project.

It was a good plan, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.

plans

After Water Hazard came Pump It Up, then No Good Deed, then Backseat to Justice and so on…

Last August, when Eyewitness Blues was released I decided it was time to finish what I had started.

I was in the process of getting Path of a Bullet ready for December release, so January 1, 2015 seemed like a good day to start the project.

I say start rather than finish for a few reasons:

  • My writing skills left a lot – A LOT – to be desired in 1988
  • The story was more than 20 years old, so it needed to be modernized
  • After reviewing what I had written I realized I had tried a little too hard to write an epic novel
  • While writing the original I had been afraid to think outside the box

So, as the new year began, so did my new incarnation of Full Circle (the title is the only thing that has remained from the original, aside from the central theme). By the end of January I had written a paltry 3,000 words and when Febrauary ended I had only doubled my output. March was a particularly bad month for me so when April began my word count hadn’t moved.

I began to wonder if somebody up there was trying to tell me something…

It would have been ironic, don’t you think, if some unknown force was trying to stop me from writing a novel about some unknown force that causes things to happen?

Perhaps, but I wasn’t going to accept that, so I imposed a moratorium on non-essential extra-curricular activities and spent every spare minute I had at the keyboard with the goal of finishing the first draft by June 1.

If I could do that, I could get it to my beta readers and hopefully get it back from them before July, which would allow me to get it to the editor before August so it could be released (hopefully) before November.

I’ll be honest…there were times when I thought I was asking a bit too much of myself.

Would I be able to, essentially, write an entire novel in two months?

Well…I missed my target date by one day.

writer's clock

I finished the first draft of Full Circle on June 2.

By the end of the day on June 3 it will be in the hands of my beta readers and the book I began writing in 1988 will be that much closer to completion.

I guess there are two ways to look at it…

You could say that, for all intents and purposes, I wrote Full Circle in two months—or—you could say it took me twenty-seven years.

finish

Either way – I’m extremely happy with the finished product and I hope you will be too!

Look for Full Circle in the late fall of 2015!

 

As always – thank you for reading

20 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Another First Draft Finished…but it’s not The End

Yesterday, for the seventh time in five years, I typed an authors favorite two words…

the end

I’m speaking symbolically of course…I’ve never actually typed those words at the end of a novel. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen them in a book, but I did finish the first draft of my latest, as of yet untitled, novel.

The irony is that, now that the first draft is finished, it’s not the end at all…it’s really only the beginning.

There’s still a lot of work to do before it is ready for you. In the next few days I will distribute copies to my beta-readers and wait for their feedback.

Beta readers are the unsung heroes of the book-writing world, and I’m lucky to have some really good ones.

None of them worry about hurting my feelings and each of them has contributed something that has improved my work in the past.

Like any author worth their salt, I am extremely grateful for them, and any input they offer is always taken very seriously. That’s not to say I act on all of it, but I definitely pay attention.

A few of my betas have been with me since the beginning, and a couple of them have only done one book. Along the way there have been some people who thought they wanted to be a beta, but unfortunately they didn’t understand the job description, so I had to keep looking until I found suitable replacements.

Didn’t understand the job description? How is that possible? Read the book and tell the author what you think…right?

It doesn’t sound like a complicated task, and in fact it isn’t…once the ground rules are clearly defined and understood.

When an author asks for beta readers, they aren’t asking for somebody to read a draft and tell them it’s the best thing they’ve ever read. We aren’t delusional; we all know what Hemingway said…

first draft

No, what we are asking for is someone to read a first draft and punch holes in it.

Big holes.

We don’t want to hear about missing commas or spelling mistakes…that’s part of the editing process.

A beta reader’s primary responsibility is to tell the author what they didn’t like about the book.

  • Things that didn’t make sense in the story.
  • Characters that weren’t believable
  • Dialogue that didn’t ring true
  • Anything that made them stop and say well that just ain’t right

The author is asking you to rip the story to shreds. Even if it’s just as simple as saying The story just didn’t grab me.

So, for the next two or three weeks my book will be in the hands of  people who are tasked with picking it apart, so I can put it back together before I send it to the editor…who will then proceed to pick it apart some more.

All of this is done in hopes that you, the reader, won’t know how bad the first draft really was.

 not the end

 

As always – thank you for reading

18 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized