After the First Draft

Anne here!


While I want to keep diving into The Legacy Series, I thought it would be good to take a break and talk about some of the process of writing that maybe we don't talk about enough. I want to touch on a few things. Mistakes, advice, leaving your comfort zone, relying on yourself, and building toward a future you can see.


True to form, I am a socially awkward and fairly introverted person, including online. This means I do not stick my neck into the communities around me. This also means that while I can join groups, discords (don't get me started on Discord), and communities through the writing sites I'm on, I have an issue with keeping up with them.


It's not a physical issue, but a mental one. I get in my head, I distance myself too far, and I listen to the voice in the back of my head that tells me there's no point. Had I silenced that voice a long time ago, I wouldn't have published my first work, The Cursed Prince, before it was ready. What does this have to do with writing tips? I don't know, let's find out.


Once upon a time, like 3 years ago, I bought into a vanity publisher (Austin Macauley). They gave me something I wanted desperately, to be a published writer, but there was little to zero support from them. I want to desperately warn against going through a vanity publisher. What they are is any publisher that wants you to sign a contract where they ask for money before starting anything. The only time you should be shelling money out for your publication is when you self publish, and you know where that money goes.


With this vanity publisher, I found 3k gone, my book a flop, and my confidence shot to hell. Was it my fault, yes, absolutely. I could have declined them, I could have done something else, but I signed the contract. The only thing that was running through my head is that I had been turned down by others, what makes me think I would find someone, something, else? Nothing at the time, which is why I took the dive. There are still things I take away from that experience. Things I'm working on constantly, but where there is progress and confidence, there is something always pulling me back.


I left Wattpad because of things like this. I didn't feel I was going anywhere on that platform. I left the stars program because they seemed to be stuck on the same authors, which I know isn't fair to them, they work just as hard, maybe harder for their goals. Wattpad was a site I had been on since I was 18 and I didn't feel like I grew much from that. The community confused me, and I didn't feel comfortable there. No, no one made me feel uncomfortable, it was just my preference. When I would get advice from staff members or more experienced writers through that community it felt like they were looking down on me. As if I should know the information already because of my age and how long I've been doing this.


Maybe they're right, I probably should. But I couldn't help some outside forces that cause me to procrastinate or that push me into a well of despair I cannot get out of some days. This has caused me to fall behind. I realized, too late I think, that there is nothing to fall behind. We take this at our own pace. Leaving Wattpad, I forced myself to rely on myself. I started this website so I could venture out and see what I can bring back on my own. I know it will take a while, and maybe it will never take off into something great and big, but I will never stop writing. Something I thought of more than once when I was on Wattpad, drowning in the deep end.


I don't want anyone to think that you have to follow any of this advice, if that's what you want to call it. But if this can help one other person not make the same mistakes, or even look a second time at something they missed, then it's done the job. This is a marathon, not a race. Take your time, pace yourself, there is no age criteria to meet.


Then there's authors that give advice. You know the ones that make it, and all people want to know is how they did it and they give something generic because they don't really know how they did it either. They can't just say, query until your key board breaks. Take all your time and put the energy into making your drafts that much better each time. Quit your day job and devote everything into something that isn't making money, but maybe it will one day. Don't get me wrong, you can totally work a normal job and do this, but it takes balance. Balance that these big names don't talk about.


While people give writing advice like "write, just write." It is never that simple. They don't tell you about the days where it feels like nothing can be seen in the fog of your mind. The days that you read a bad review, comment, or message from someone that's read your work and it crumbles the very fragile wall that you painstakingly built around yourself. They don't tell you that getting big in the industry is mostly luck, chance, and sell-ability. Which, again, I understand. You can't market something you can't sell.


What happens when this industry preys on the ones that don't have that community? People, like me, end up falling for pretty marketing schemes, and run themselves into the ground for a piece of work that was better off in the drafting stage and should have gone around the bend a few times more before it saw the light of day. They spend money they shouldn't have for very little return, and almost no marketing from their "team" that was supposed to be behind them.


Can you tell I'm bitter? Good. I stay bitter about this because it teaches me - reminds me - that there are better things out there if I put the work in.


This brings me to the point of this post (yes there actually is one).


What happens after the first draft? Because if there is one thing that is correct when writers give advice, is that you have to get that first draft done. It can be absolute garbage, neon lights shining on the dumpster, garbage. But you got it done. That's step one. Don't look too far ahead either, the steps can be daunting, and if you're anything like me, you see a long staircase or tall ladder, and you turn away from it. Step by step, you will climb through the steps and produce something worthy of the talent you have bubbling at the surface.


So what do you do once your garbage dump of a first draft is done? Well, if you're like me, you start five other projects before looking at that one again for, like, a year almost. I won't lie, I have a ton of projects that need my attention and I hate giving it to just one of them. Currently, I'm dragging an old draft out, giving it new life, and starting from square one while working on the sequel to Once Bitten Twice Turned, and starting a sequel to another first draft of mine. Is it too much at once? Yeah, probably.


If you're smarter than me, and let's face it, you probably are, you will want to do an outline of what you've got going for you so far. When I start and outline, and by outline, I mean a list of random words, phrases, and lines of dialogue that makes very little sense. But when you start one, it becomes like a game.


You try and find things you can add, things you can change, listing random things the MC can go through, take things away from them, give things to them, make their backstory a little more Soap Opera than before. Play around with their personalities. If you are adamant that someone can't change in your story, ask yourself why? Is it because the feedback received on them was really positive? Is it because they're perfect and can do no wrong? Either or, it's good to change them, give them flaws, no one but superman is perfect, and even then, have you seen the way he wears his hair? Eh.


Currently, I've broken down the Legacy Series into what I can change with each book. The lines are random, they don't flow, but they give me ideas for the changes and that's all I can ask for. You have to find your groove.


There is no one way to edit, there is not one way to do your second, third, or fourth draft. Even if you want it to get that far. Aside from obvious grammar things that we have to obey, everything else is up to you. It's scary, daunting, and might make you feel like you're going insane, but it's the life of a writer and I wouldn't want it any other way.


Anyone have other ideas of for the editing process? What comes after the first draft? Or even horror stories about your process or situations you've gotten yourself into with publishers? Let me know below!


Also, as always, my free stories are up on Inkitt, unedited and ready to read!


https://www.inkitt.com/annemarshall

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