First Draft Pity Party

My cursor hovered over the send box on the email. I got up, walked into the other room. I was about to send the first draft of my manuscript to my editor. I took a deep breath….SEND. It was off to cyber manuscript world. What had I done? Oh My God. Shitty First Drafts

I started this book twenty years ago. So, picking up where I left off was more of a challenge than I expected. Over the summer, I wrote a thousand words a day until I reached my goal of 80,000. I ended at about 86,000 words. I knew the book was far from a literary gem. I knew that the characters were underdeveloped. Yah, I’ll get back to them. I knew that third person omniscient would put anyone over the edge. But, I thought it was important for the reader to know what everyone was thinking all of the time. Not a great plan. I knew that some of my descriptions were coma inducing. I just wanted the reader to picture every detail down to the condensation rings on the table left from a glass. I was dreaming of the characters. I didn’t see them or talk to them when awake, but I was close. It was time for an editor.

I sent my synopsis out to a few editors. The one I chose liked the premise. She wanted to talk to me to see if we were a good match. No one else offered this. I hired her. She told me that as soon as I sent the manuscript, to start on another writing project. So, I did. The new project was shiny and fresh. It didn’t talk back, and it was at my mercy. It wasn’t being abused and ripped apart.

Two days ago, I got my preliminary edits. OMG. If you want to have a thicker skin, then send out a manuscript for someone to edit. Seriously, this is shock therapy. My husband did not understand why I was upset. He’s an engineer and sees only black and white. You wrote a book. You have edits. Make the edits. No big deal. Logic had no place in the beginning stages of my pity party. Logic wasn’t invited.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

My dialogue soon turned into a pity party (and as everyone knows, only one person is invited to your pity party.) “I suck. Why would I ever think I could be a writer….blah blah blah.”

Here are some of her edits out of context. It’s much more fun this way.

Does he own this store?

Has she been to her mom’s yoga class?

There’s no consequence for Tracy’s repeated assaults?

Why would he have towels so close at hand?

Do we need access to this character’s unspoken thoughts?

We’re in Lou’s head now.

The morgue is upstairs from here?

So, Domenico is sober right now? It seems like this scene belongs before the one with the fingernail.

More unprovoked assault without consequence for the bullies. Visit to/from the gnomes, Lou.

This seems unlikely.

Why would he do an internal exam at all?

Is this frog punishment ever unpacked? Bobby clearly has issues, and putting his frog in the forest doesn’t do anything to help him — it only ostracizes him from the other children. Ms. Aubry seems relatively enlightened, but she never questions the practice of public shaming.

The principal’s behavior here feels implausible.

This is the 70s, right? Big bushes were in. And why would a psych nurse help her shave her bikini area? This is my favorite.

Tonight, I spent an hour talking to my editor about her feedback. She was spot on and showed me how to make my book the story I’m trying to tell. I had imagined her wielding a red pen over my manuscript, laughing maniacally. Yah, it’s a Word Doc, but being dramatic fueled my pity party. She told me that these are normal first draft edits. She gave me suggestions that I would never have thought of. She sees what’s hidden beneath the madness. She sees what’s possible. She understands my story.

Every first draft sucks. This is a long process. I have homework. I’m to outline my current draft by scene. From there, I change POV, strengthen character development, and make sure the settings are true to the period. My editor will review, then I work on my second draft. Then she reviews again in a hard edit and gives me more homework. There will be another draft or two. I’m sure by then my bruised writing ego will get a hold of herself.

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