Another draft in the bag! This was another rough cut, and there are a few more icky bits that need serious surgery. These drafts are pretty rough and nasty, but this being my first major work, I’m still pleased. I think this is the 4th time around. I’ve lost count. I hear the future ones will go much faster and I’ll likely not need so many rough drafts and rewrites.
But I think after this next draft, I’ll start getting line by line critiques on scribofile. That’s a big step up. After this time around, I’m hoping to be onto revisions rather than drafts. That means the stuff I write will read more like something people would pick up and read for pleasure. Right now, it reads more like my personal instructions for what the story will eventually look like.
I’d like to walk through the various forms this story has taken since February, just so you can fully understand how much this has evolved.
February: Started work on initial story, goal was to finish very first draft by the end of June. My current main character was a minor character that served no purpose other than to build up tension and get killed by the villain. This project was scrapped for several reasons. After 80,000 words, I was less than a third of the way through. I thought the main two characters were dull compared to the minor character. I kept adding him in scenes and having him talk about his life before he met the other characters. His stories ended up being far more interesting than the original story.
March: I wrote a flash fiction piece about the minor character to get him out of my system, so I could get back to the original story. Instead, I ended up liking the flash piece so much that I archived the original story I was working on and started a new one with the minor character as the protagonist. I kept the June 30th goal for the first draft.
April: I finished the first draft! I was amazed that I had written the entire draft in less than six weeks. It was very grubby and wasn’t even 40k words. Entire chapters were simply paragraphs describing what was supposed to happen in the next draft.
May: I got some burnout and quit for two weeks. But I finished another draft end of June. I worked on a chapter to take to GenCon for a formal panel critique. I polished this first chapter several times to get it in perfect shape.
July: I was getting burnout again, but luckily, I went to InConJunction as a panel speaker. I met several self published sci-fi/fantasy authors who were very successful. I learned so much from them and they were very warm and friendly. Chris Kennedy gave me so much encouragement and advice. He was also very much in the know and pointed out the editors he knew and trusted in the crowds. I was ready to give up, and he cheered me up tremendously.
August: After attending a seminar of Maxwell Alexander Drake’s, I scrapped the entire critique piece I was working on for the last month and a half. He had incredible advice for movement and flow in scenes. I really wanted to work his tips into my prepared piece, but found that it was too complicated. It was a fight scene, and Drake’s seminar taught me enough to know that the scene was even worse than I thought. So I took the flash fiction I wrote back in March and polished that up in three days. I cancelled nearly all of my GenCon events and wrote several hours a day at the Westin Hotel, where the Writer’s Workshop seminars were located. On the final day of the conference, I read my piece for the panel and got blown away by the positive feedback. To hear that my narrative voice was awesome and phenomenal was such a blessing. It made me feel quite validated and inspired me to carry on.
Here’s a sad story, though. For years, I heard people say that one negative comment can set you back. It’s so powerful that one negative comment can cancel out ten positive ones. I never believed it, but it happened to me. It wasn’t even a negative comment. One person close to me had no interest or enthusiasm in even looking at my work. He complained that it was a waste of time and I should stop. I wish I could say that I ignored the lack of support, but it threw me off and I quit writing altogether for the rest of the month.
September: After Labor Day, I picked up again and finished the third draft in a few weeks. This was a major rewrite. Parts of the story were embarrassingly melodramatic and unrealistic. I changed major plot points and gave the story a major overhaul. Now I’m onto the fourth rough draft. After this draft, I’m hoping the drafts will be polishing up and refining, rather than rerouting the plot and recreating the story.
Summary: I guess I could punish myself about giving up so many times, but instead, I’ll cheer for getting so much done in the time that I did work. Because I had no idea how long it would take to write a draft, I finished way ahead of schedule. And even though I underestimated how many times I’d have to rewrite to get the story I wanted to work on, I’m still ahead of schedule. I thought things would be more polished by now, but I also had no idea that I could go through an entire draft in less than a month. My goal was to be ready for beta readers by the end of February. I’m still on schedule even with the setbacks. This is coming together despite my best efforts to give up!
My current concern now is having a realistic an honest portrayal of this romantic relationship. It starts out as a very intense one time fling and then mellows out to a serious relationship. I want to keep the sex scenes edgy, but still suitable for mature YA audiences. I don’t want to go into erotica because I don’t know the market. I don’t have interest in learning it at this time. I would also like to write other stories in this world, and I fear if the first one is M/M erotica, they will all have to be. People tend to expect an author to write the same flavor of story within a single series.
I want to focus more on the fantasy and less on the romance/sex. Most of the characters I have planned for the future stories are not gay. This character just ended up that way by accident. Many of the future characters are asexual and while there will likely be romantic interests for them, there will be little or no sex involved. Overall, I have to keep the sex very much played down so I keep the genre fantasy with some edgy romantic sex mixed in, rather than the other way around.
Off I go to wrap up the next draft. Wish me luck!