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Finding Treasure in Your First Draft


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Many of us have heard over the course of our writing life that first drafts are meant to be terrible. Many authors, ones more successful than me, have said that is the key to getting them done. Let them be awful! And that's true. Except sometimes we get stuck so far down on the road of revision we lose sight of some things in the story that was so important before. 

Recently, I've talked about my journey to revise a story that has had a character that felt underdeveloped to me. Nothing felt right in my tweaking, and I decided to go back to earlier drafts. I wondered what happened along the way that I lost so much sight of my story and my character.

In the midst of feedback I had received a couple of years ago, I found comments that were like diamonds in the rough. Many people had said about this earlier version that they liked the characters and the pace of the story. How wonderful to read! And quite the opposite of some recent feedback I received. These previous comments actually just mentioned that my ending felt a bit abrupt and just not enough. 

Keeping this in mind, I looked over the story once again and realized that somehow in the midst of revision I had taken away some of the good aspects of the story in order to make it fit what I thought was a better version. 

The revision process can be a bit like Frankenstein making his monster. You think you are going along a good path, and then you get lost along the way. You remove the wrong thing and keep the things that should have gotten plucked out. 

So, now I go back to that earlier draft. Not quite the sucky first one, but it's likely the fourth or fifth revision I thought wasn't good enough.

If you find yourself stuck along the revision process like me, look back over those earlier versions. Maybe somewhere in there you'll find some treasure and build it back into your newer version. Maybe somehow you can make things right again.

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