As I continue my catch-up on books I had to wait to read until I had free time, I wanted to share my thoughts on how I’ve evolved as a writer, especially over the past year or so.
Looking back, it is hard to believe just how far I’ve come as a writer in such a short amount of time. When I first started writing novel-length work back in 2005, I could churn out a first draft very quickly. And that was it. Push out a draft of a story and just move on. Obviously I still do that every November (at least the write-quickly part of the equation). But recently, my approach to what to do with that draft once finished has changed.
I think part of the reason I can’t churn out multiple first drafts of various projects is I have less time to work. The last few months were spent filling my head with law in preparation for the bar exam. So there wasn’t really a lot of headspace available to devote to creative pursuits or loudmouthed characters begging to get out. I did manage to work on several projects during law school but really only one of them has shaped up to be publishable. I do hope to someday go back to the project I wrote while I was working on the first draft of Unplanned but I know it would take a lot of work to get it up to snuff. It has had an interesting progression, even if has sat idly on my hard drive since early 2010. It started out as a full length script penned in 2007. I learned quickly I was not a good match for script writing. I tend to over describe things in a script when it is meant to be mainly dialogue. But I wasn’t willing to give up on the story as I thought it and the characters had some merit. So in 2010, I decided to take and convert it to novel format.
I think the fact that I’ve even considered revising an old project speaks volumes about my ability as a writer. It isn’t enough to just spit out words and characters and scenarios. A good writer is willing to go back over old projects and revise (often times completely reworking or rewriting) to improve. Unplanned went through 5 or 6 revisions before being accepted for publication. I know it will undergo two more rounds with my editor before it becomes the final version. I have recently picked up a young adult project I’ve been working on since 2009 and it is likely on draft 5 or 6 as well. It will go through at least 2 more revisions before I send it out into the literary world to try and find a home or an agent for it.
While I’ve realized the value of being able to revise and take criticism from others, I’ve also come to understand that if I am to become somewhat successful at this, I need to be able to turn drafts around much faster. I can’t spend 4-6 years on a project making it shine. So I have taken a different approach to the first draft. I’m trying plan things out from character growth to story arc long before I even sit down to begin writing. Part of this new process stems from the fact that my latest project is urban fantasy with a certain story format that requires research and planning. For me, I feel like if I have all of this prep work done before I even start writing, I have a better chance of turning out a stronger first draft. There is a great likelihood that I’ll craft a first draft that doesn’t require so much revision to get to a place where it can go out into the world and not suck.
I believe these revelations are important stepping stones along my journey of becoming a better writer. Even a couple years ago I probably would have just left first drafts like Unplanned or my young adult project to languish on my hard drive, not willing to go back and revisit them. Now, I know I can’t do that. Sure I’ve written a lot of crap first drafts and some don’t deserve to see the light of day. Others have been lost thanks to computer problems. But I am learning and I am getting better. I’ve taken my passion for writing and begun to shape it into something that may one day be profitable.