The First Draft Scare: A Halloween Tale of Terror

TreeGhostIt’s been a long time since I’ve been scared on Halloween, the American holiday that repackages fright and death into fun and games. But today, I got my heart pounding. Today was the day I hauled out the NaNoWriMo draft of my novel and looked at it for the first time since August.

It’s been almost a month since I promised to do this, and only three days before the day I’m committed to reading my opening to the good people at R-SPEC (Rochester Speculative Literature Association). I have been actively avoiding reading what I wrote, or even thinking about it very much. At first it was because, really, you should let your draft sit for a bit before you start editing. Everyone knows that, right? And then the school year started and I had a ton to do to get my classes off and running. And I keep finding other things to work on (this blog, for example). But I made a promise, and today I finally took that deep breath, squared my shoulders, and opened that scary folder, the one labeled Draft 1. And what did I see?

It’s not so bad. *huge sigh of relief*

Not that it’s actually good. Already on the first page there are things I’m rearranging, tightening, expanding, deleting. No surprise there. Some bits of action don’t move the story forward and have to go. Others need to be motivated better. The narrator’s voice can be brought into clearer focus. The situation has to be fleshed out with a few key details to give it a stronger sense of where things are happening and who is there without bogging things down. Barely 200 words in and everything’s shifting, like one of those time-lapse images of clouds sailing up over the mountains.

But the general scene is working. I’m reading it aloud to hear the rhythm of the sentences and finding that most of it flows pretty smoothly. I can sense the bones of the story already, and they feel strong to me. (Heh – bones. Halloween joke!) I can see my way through the dark, scary forest toward the better draft I want to reach.

I wish I could use the support of NaNoWriMo to plow through this revision in a month. This system worked really well for me in July, in the tent with Camp NaNoWriMo, but as a teacher I’m lucky if I can find an extra 20 minutes in a day in November to work on something like this. But I’ve made a start. I turned the key and the engine sputtered a bit but it caught, and things are moving. So now I’m going to lock the doors, roll up the windows, gun the engine, and press through until I reach my goal. Hopefully, without finding a bloody hook hanging from the car door when I get out.

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