This post has adult content. If you are under the age of eighteen years old and/or sensitive to adult language/situations, please do not read this post.
You’ve conquered NaNoWriMo and have written a fast first draft of your story. Now what do you do with this steaming pile of word feces?
There are some writers who claim to write perfect first drafts, first drafts that make the angels sing and editors weep with wonder. These writers can usually be found drinking by themselves at conferences. Publicly, we pretend to be happy for them. Privately, we know they can’t be trusted.
Because every writer tweaks SOMETHING. Maybe this tweaking happens immediately after the first draft of a sentence or scene or chapter is written. Maybe this tweaking happens after the entire first draft of the story is written. The timing doesn’t matter. Once we change something – a word, a scene, a name, a comma, it is no longer the first draft.
Dealing With The Doubt Demons
If we’re looking at a true first draft, we’re looking at a mess. There might be missing scenes. Our characters might be happy, then sad, then happy again in a three sentence paragraph. Sentences might lack verbs. Some sex scenes might not be physically possible.
We read it and have a mini melt down. Oh my God. We’ve spent a month on this story and it’s garbage. A five year old could write a better story.
But not on the first draft. This mess is what a first draft is supposed to look like. It is normal, expected, comforting. If I write a readable first draft, I worry. Am I not pushing myself? Am I repeating a story I’ve already written?
Embrace the mess. Devise a strategy to tackle it.
Look At All Of The Pretty Arcs
My strategy is to look at the story at a very high level and then drill down. It makes no sense to me to hone a sentence into literary perfection when I don’t know if I’m keeping the scene that sentence appears in.
My first step is to look at my arcs. Real life is full of ups and downs. We solve issues only to rehash them a year later. We have a terrible day followed by a great day. If we duplicated this in Romanceland, the reader would get whiplash. Characters would be perceived as being emotionally unbalanced.
In Romanceland, we create arcs, steady, somewhat graceful builds. Does the action accelerate until, oh my lord, I can’t read fast enough to satisfy me? Is there more at stake for the characters as the story progresses? Does the sex get sexier, more emotional? Does the relationship become more intense? Does the change in the character make sense? (and characters SHOULD change) Does the reader care more with each page?
The key word is more because…well… more is more. Scenes should drive the story relentlessly forward. Characters should grow and change. The future builds on the past.
Killing Our Darlings
If a scene doesn’t belong, I move it or I, gasp, delete it. This is brutal to do. I love all of my scenes. But writing isn’t easy. It is soul sucking work. Sometimes we have to kill our darlings. (You know this happens often when we have a phrase for it.)
To make myself happy, I usually collect my darlings in another file. I’ve never used any of these scenes because they’re customized for the characters and the story, but it helps me emotionally deal with their removal.
Yes, emotion flow is one of our arcs but it is so key in erotic romances that I devote a special draft to it. If an erotic romance nails emotion, almost everything else can suck great hairy donkey balls and readers will still enjoy the story. It is THAT important.
Flow is the right description for it. A character wouldn’t be sad in one paragraph and crazy happy in the next. That jolts the reader and makes the character look a bit cray cray. She might be sad, then okay, then cheerful, then ecstatic. There’s a gradual transition.
I usually rush through this transition in the first draft, not giving the reader enough time to truly feel what my characters are feeling. I add paragraphs or scenes in this draft, slowing the flow.
When I’m happy with the arcs and the emotion flow, adding and removing scenes to smooth them out, I look at the What The Fuck moments. These could be scenes that aren’t physically possible, dialogue or actions that aren’t in character, or continuity issues.
The heroine is wearing a blue blouse when she walks into the bank and a pink blouse when she walks out. Purses and phones go missing. Condoms appear out of nowhere and then disappear magically after fuckfests. An alien who previously doesn’t know a word of English suddenly spouts poetry. Our dashing human hero who has taken a life threatening shot to the gut is able to, minutes later, fuck our heroine against the wall.
I have yet to ever find ALL of my WTF moments. This is one of the reasons we need editors or critique partners. We often can’t see them ourselves.
When I’ve completed the BIG revisions, I work on the nitty gritty stuff—the echoes (repeating the same noteworthy word in the same paragraph), the awkward phrasing, the missing verbs, the lazy sentences.
If I’m in danger of not meeting a deadline, I know I usually have time after the submission date to make these tweaks. Normally, my editor first looks at the big picture. Then copyeditors look at the nitty gritty.
How do you attack your second drafts?
If you liked this post, you might like
Writing Erotic Romance – Balancing Sex And Plot
Writing Erotic Romance – Making Every Sex Scene Different
Writing Erotic Romance – Making Sex Sexy
Writing Erotic Romance – The Basics Of A Sex Scene
Writing Erotic Romance – Word Choice
Nicolas Rainer, Chicago’s most sought-after billionaire bachelor, has finally decided what he wants, and that’s Bee Carter in his arms, forever. He shows up unannounced on her doorstep and kisses her until her toes curl and her body burns.
Nicolas wasn’t the sexy man Bee expected to see this morning. Hawke Masters, her tattooed former marine, is riding his customized chopper toward the condo building, anticipating an equally mind-meltingly erotic encounter.
Both men want her with a thrilling intensity. Neither her billionaire nor her biker wishes to share her affections. Is today the day Bee is forced to choose?