Drafting Disaster! Yet I’m Smiling.

Failures, big and small, teach and yield inspiration. The last two weeks (HERE and HERE) I’ve talked about the process I’ve settled on (for now) to even out my initial draft before setting it aside. Well, lucky you, this week you can glimpse the derailment that helped inspire it.

A Little Background.
My rebooted Ontyre series was born in April, 2016 during Camp NaNoWriMo when I wrote Trust in the Forgotten (Bk1). Though I’d been planning to write Trust “soon,” writing it for Camp was a last minute decision. I scrambled and was, overall, happy with the draft I ultimately set aside and the process that produced it.

Cover: CA Hawthorne

Then NaNoWriMo approached. Oh yeah! I was going to be ready. I was going to be beyond ready.

Yes and no.

There are plans that run out of gas and then there are plans where the engine drops while driving at high speed.

The first warning? I was sick through much of September. Understand that I have a severe lung condition and the mere mention of the word sick inspires dread. Too, my 2-year battle to bypass the gatekeeper doctors and gain access to a pulmonologist still hadn’t yielded a victory.

I soldiered on.

October was spent prepping for writing A River in Each Hand (Bk2). What an effort! My plans had plans even I didn’t know about. Still, already unwell, the long hours were hastening my health decline.

Cover: CA Hawthorne

Cover: CA Hawthorne

Ah, but there was no time to be sick. I had a book to write! I started off determined, churning out words at an amazing rate. I passed 40K on the 10th and reached the 50K NaNo goal on the 12th.

Then the wheels on my NaNo train disengaged. My lungs were…well, let’s just say they weren’t pleased. Slumped over the keyboard, by the 15th I was leaving out huge chunks of intended story, my output a trickle.

Somehow, some way, I finished with 89K, but much of it was drivel. I’d passed 60K by Day 15, but managed only another 29K by Day 30, and that included writing two more versions of the opening thinking I’d choose between the three.

They were all awful.

Aftermath and Assessment
If there was a highlight in December (aside from finally gaining that referral to a pulmonologist) it was writing a fourth (yes, a fourth), 7K opening for the novel that raised the story’s bar. That was all I managed before setting the novel aside.

We jump to mid May…

Cover Art: CA Hawthorne

Cover: CA Hawthorne

My pulmonologist had me feeling better than I had in seven years and I was just coming off a successful Camp NaNo where I drafted Torment Surfacing (Bk2A…so numbered because it’s the same world/timeline, but separate events). It was time to return to the novel after 5 months.

The opening remained as good as remembered, but after that it was more uneven than Bk1 or Bk2A at the same stage. Some of the problems were health related, but not all. More of it, I’m convinced, was (for me) over-planning. I had so many reference/planning materials I became bogged down and over analyzed while drafting. In contrast, when drafting Bk2A there was the freedom to dive off into inspiration and all I had was a loose narrative outline.

Looking at the Bk2 draft now it appears I was subconsciously recognizing my over-planning late in the month, which led to veering off into the unplanned—and superior—library scenes.

If you’ve read the preceding two Thursday blog posts you already know the approach that resulted from this experience. Still, Bk2 remains so I’m currently constructing a plan to fix it. At this stage it’s figuring out what needs inserted/deleted. Seriously, at least 30K will be cut and probably 50K added.

Remember, though, I left out huge chunks when drafting the novel. Entire arcs either didn’t happen or withered (two POV, a romance, a traitor, etc).

Sound terrible? It isn’t because…

• My drafting process has taken great strides forward as a result. Learning is never a waste and last November I learned in the extreme.
• My misadventures have ultimately led to sharpening my approach last April resulting in Bk2A being my best 1st draft ever.
• I have a draft to work with rather then nothing and that’s HUGE. At least half the scenes have great potential or have already inspired exciting changes.

So, here I am with this mess and I’m smiling. I might be sitting in the middle of a rubble pile, but I have plans for building a fantastic mansion with it. The old adage that says a poor draft is better than no draft is true.

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