Fun with First Drafts!

They scare the hell out of me.

Then amuse me.

Late November I wrote the first 2,000 words of a story. I typically abandon these first tries for a long time. Sometimes I will forget about them for months on end. I usually will not even read them after writing until that distant date in the future. And there is no need, unless one is going to write and then edit right away (which I can’t imagine doing) one should remember what one has just written.

That, and it looks better two weeks or one month later than it does that night.

That I will change, if not every word, then the entire thing as a whole, I take as a given. After all, I rarely have more than a grain of an idea when I start. The first attempt has as much to do with me finding out what the story is as with anything else.

Actually, it has more to do with me finding out what the story isn’t!

Case in point. The story I was working on late in November was about a message found in a bottle that spoke of an alien invasion. Then we’d follow the discoverer on an adventure as he found out we were, in fact, taken over, decades ago. That was the entirety of the idea in my head.

In the first attempt I wrote the note that was found. The note gave away the entire thing. This person rambled on about the whole mess for 833 words. If we are not to assume that the note in the story is a hoax or the product of derangement, then the note gives the entire backstory on page 2.

He relates that everyone in his town, including his wife and children, start acting strangely. Then as if none of them know him. Then he wakes up one night to find his family gone. Searching for them he discovers the entire town is assembled at the high school stadium. At 3am. Six thousand of them turn to him as one and give chase. He flees in his car evading them, travels up the coast, and is writing the note in a cafe while everyone there eyes him with suspicion.

Note he writes all this on the lamb from six thousand zombies or aliens – he knows not what.

Ridiculous. But, educational. In two thousand words I manage to spill the whole story.

Another part of this first attempt concerns the main character attempting to get the note out of the bottle. No, it did not occur to me while writing it why he could not just break the bottle. But let’s assume that trying to get the note out without breaking the bottle was the goal – for some reason. Maybe it would prove valuable?

I ground out the smoke in the ashtray. I uncorked the bottle and shook it to get the note out or at least to make it come close to the opening so I could grab a piece of it with my finger and drag it out. That was stupid. I t got nowhere close. I got up and made my way to the bathroom. Rummaging through the medicine cabinet I found a pair of tweezers. Back out in the kitchen I sat at the island bar again and proceeded to fight with the piece of paper. A tedious thing to do in the morning with shaking fingers and I instantly broke out in a sweat in the effort.

For several minutes I battled my nerves and the tediousness of it. Finally I got ahold of a tiny corner of it and carefully started pulling until I secured a beachhead where the paper, or a good enough portion of it, now clung inside the neck of the bottle. Then I spent several more minutes methodically pulling from one side and then the other until the closest end of the paper was securing and fully lodged in the bottle’s neck. Then, slowly crimping and pulling, a worked more and more of the paper into the neck and freeing the other held out of the bottle.

And then finally success!

This sample should be proof that I don’t censor as I write! I also don’t think I had a visual image of the character in action. Because note all that verbiage, look at all those words.

Now pick up something lying around and pretend it is a bottle like in the story. In your other hand pretend you have a pair of tweezers. Hold the bottle up over your eye as you were a pirate looking for gold in those skies.

It took me fourteen sentences and 227 words to describe that! But let’s consider our visual again. I haven’t rewritten it yet (don’t know if I will, easier to have him break it) but I think that could be done in 3 sentences max.

He also manages to have four cigarettes burning at the same time. He doesn’t have that bad of a habit, but a writer that doesn’t remember when he last lit up.

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3 responses to “Fun with First Drafts!

  • Michelle Mueller

    It’s always fascinating to see the initial drafts and writing processes of other writers. For whatever reason, I won’t just jump into a story without first trying to figure out all the details, but I often wish I were more willing to plunge headfirst into a draft, just to see what happens, even if its both scary and amusing later. Thanks for sharing.

    • bensira587

      You’re welcome, and thanks for commenting. I drag these out from time to time because I find them hilarious.

      This doesn’t apply to anyone but I. I used to be a plotter, I wouldn’t put down word one until I knew every single thing. Problem was I would never get to writing at all. So now I just get an idea and I run with it. It means a lot more writing, but it is writing!

  • Michelle Mueller

    This is true. I have that problem: plotting but not writing. But there’s no story if I never write it, so I’ve been trying to do a better job of it. As you said, at least it is writing! 🙂

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