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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | My First Draft is a Mess

My First Draft is a Mess

Yes, it is. But I accept that.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple years of writing, it’s that my first draft is usually a rambling, maze-like monstrosity.  Kind of like the Winchester Mystery House in California.
According to legend, Sarah Winchester, widow of the Winchester gun magnate, was told by a medium she’d be haunted until death by all the victims killed via Winchester guns.  The only way to escape the vengeance of these spirits was to build a house that would confuse them. Thus, Mrs. Winchester began building a house that was under constant construction for 38 years.
It had no master floor plan.  She directed the builders to make constant changes, resulting in stairs that lead nowhere, doors that don’t open, and interior windows.
Kind of like my first draft!
I do have an overall plan for my story, but right now there are extra hallways and rooms I thought I wanted, but may not need.  And I foresee requiring some rooms I currently can’t access, because I forgot to plan a path to get there.
Some of you might say that’s what I get for being a pantster.  And that may be true. However, the one time I tried to outline a draft from beginning to end, I produced a manuscript so one-dimensional and linear it bored me to tears. I had to throw it out and start over.
I guess my style of writing needs a little CRAZY to reach full potential.  How about you?

17 Responses to My First Draft is a Mess

  1. Sarah says:

    I *sort of* outline (I mean, I don’t know any formal techniques for doing so, but I just write a bunch of notes that are synopsis-like), but I finished a first draft a few days ago and I know it’s full of those interior windows and other confusing paths to nowhere. I love this analogy–and the description of that house!

  2. Linda G. says:

    Sounds like our writing styles are very similar. Which is an exciting way to write, and leads to some highly entertaining situations for my MC, but it also has me pulling out my hair over certain plot points in Book 2 right now. *grin*

  3. Fascinating “plan” for that mansion, but not so much for your book, huh? I’m sure you’ll figure it out. I planned my book very loosely on a chapter-by-chapter basis. (And then later changed the chapters all around.) Now, I’m adding those “other rooms and passageways” to make the book more interesting. Next time around, I plan to do more planning. (But ya know what they say about the best-laid plans …)

  4. I love how you compare your first draft to the Winchester house. That’s how my first drafts are too. Good luck! I know it will turn out great.

  5. Hahahha, what an awesome comparison!! I grew up just down the road from the Winchester Mystery House! … and never went to visit until I was in college, despite having been to every movie as the theater that shares the same parking lot since I was a baby.

    I had just visited Scotland and couldn’t believe there were people living in the same town as amazing historical landmarks… but when I got home I realized that though I knew the story of the Winchester Mystery house, and drove past it on a daily basis, I was missing out on an awesome tour.

    When I finally went, it was a million times better than I expected! (and hopefully so is your draft!!!)

  6. LOL At least your ms will be easier to fix than that house. Wow, what was she thinking?????

  7. Ha! I think I’ve used the Winchester mansion as a metaphor myself more than once.

    My worry is that I’ll get hit by a bus and someone will open up my last project to see what I was working on and then they’ll KNOW. Oy, this is awful! I guess this worry is the literary equivalent of fearing being caught in dirty underpants.

    If it’s any consolation, my first draft approaches completion and I’m sure it’s way worse than yours!

  8. KrysteyBelle says:

    LOL I love the comparison. That house fascinates and terrifies me, as does a first draft.

  9. mshatch says:

    I’m not sure if either method (panstering or plotting) is necessarily easier. I thought I had my current wip completely outlined but even so once I started writing some of my plans just didn’t work. And I don’t think things are as bad/messsy as you think they are. Even if they are I know you’ll manage to get it all in order by the end 🙂

  10. I love how you compared writing to this house. I’d never heard of the house, but it would be fascinating to tour. Yes, I’m a pantser, too, though I do use an overall story arc kind of thing, so I can aim for hitting certain key events by certain chapters. That works for me. Best of luck w/your writing!

  11. My theory is you either put time in on the outlining in advance or the editing at the backend. Either way it takes about the same amount of time.

    Me, I’m a pantster too! 🙂

  12. THAT is a very good point, Johanna! Yes, in the end we have to make sure all our loose ends are adequately tied up. I wish I could be more of a plotter.

  13. Southpaw says:

    I love the comparison. I visited the Winchester Mystery House when I as a kid and I loved it. It totally fascinated me (a lot like my first drafts even through the make now sense! LOL)

    I moved my blog, but there is a feed problem with my old blog and the posts aren’t showing up. You can visit my new blog here.

  14. TC Avey says:

    I’ve heard about that house but had forgotten about it! Can’t wait to share that with my husband, I wonder if he has ever heard of it.

    I tend to have ADD with my thoughts- apologies to anyone who has ADD, I don’t mean to make fun, just stating I can’t seem to concentrate- my husband says he has trouble following my conversations at times. Which I think has more to do with his not listening than me rambling (wink). Anyway, I can’t seem to use an outline, I spend more time formulating the outline than using it. But I’m not a published author, so my example isn’t saying much.

  15. HOW interesting is that story?!?

    I LOVE how you said it needs a bit of CRAZY—I am stealing that and using it as my pantser excuse. I use plot points and some research at the beginning, but then dive into writing and research/fix/cut/add LATER. It just works for me!!!

  16. DL Hammons says:

    I had never heard about the Winchester House before. That’s so cool! Oh…the house that is …not your rambling 1st draft! 🙂

  17. Love that story. Glad you stopped by. Sounds like we are a lot alike in the writing department. My first draft is a mess, and I tried outlining once, too. It didn’t work out too well. I can’t start a story until I know what will happen, but I let the characters direct it.