Don't Fear the Draft(s)
For several years I had been writing scenes that I hoped someday would result in a finished memoir. During those earlier years, the scenes were numbered and each scene was its own document -- kind of like a bunch of short stories. When I decided it was time to write the book, I combined all of the scenes into one document and named it DRAFT #1. I smiled; sure, it was extremely rough and filled with typos and misplaced punctuation marks, but I was pleased with this milestone and a word count of 55,000 +/-.
I eagerly took the first chapter of the first draft to a writer's group I had recently joined. The group quickly pointed out the many flaws. Several commented 'you might have something here.' I wasn't discouraged.
I headed home and created a desktop folder called BOOK and dragged the first draft into it. Then I made a copy to work with ("they" -- whoever they are -- say never work on the original piece). I diligently attended the weekly in-person critique group, shared scenes from the book, and returned home after each meeting with stacks of papers covered in inked cursive comments. I set to work moving scenes around, word-smithing, and correcting "tells" into "shows."
Before long, papers stacked haphazardly around my desk, and digital drafts multiplied like rabbits in the springtime. I was in trouble and no longer smiling. Chronologically, it was a story; albeit, a story lacking several components. Fellow writers reminded me to 'keep writing.' So I did. I continued with the critique group, and slowly, almost a year later, I realized where I wanted the book to take its readers. By that time, I was well into the digital document creatively named DRAFT # 9 on my desktop.
The Spring of 2020 had people barricading against COVID and all activities, including the in-person critique groups, halted. New concerns were stocking up on canned goods, bagged rice, bottled water, and toilet paper. Yikes---we were in a pandemic!
To keep from stressing about the virus, I researched author sites, attended online workshops, and eventually dived into ZOOM meetings with others in the craft. I never stopped working on the most recent draft of the book.
By the end of 2020, it was possible to see a story taking shape; and I decided to name the book, Calico Lane. Soon began the arduous task of "killing my darlings" (any character or event that didn't move the story forward was eliminated). In addition, my word count now exceeded 100K. At least 25K words had to be shaved from the most recent version (DRAFT #12). The scenes that were cut weren't deleted; I was cautioned to SAVE those scenes because they might be useful in the future. I began numbering the scenes in another folder labeled "Edited Out." I entered excerpts of Calico Lane in contests and reconfigured my website. An endless collection of drafts and unused scenes accompanied my WIP (work in process).
Finally, Calico Lane was in the hands of Beta Readers; during those months I took online workshops learning how to "Land an Agent" and followed through with preparing a 53-page book proposal. From that, came researching which agents to query and which documents each agent required (no two queries were the same). Another folder labeled "Agent Quest" now appeared on my desktop.
COVID numbers were lessening and people began peering from their doorways like crocus popping from the soil. I needed to get away from the computer! It had been a long haul. And, I was tired. So when the 74th agent's "no thank you" appeared in my inbox, I began researching through Amazon how to get my story out as an Indie Author.
Recently, I handed my stack of papers titled "Agent Quest" to a friend who is completing her memoir and beginning her search for a literary agent.
This winter, when the rains come, I will not be afraid! I will decide what will become of those 14 drafts and forty-three scenes that were edited out!
Don't Fear the Drafts! Oh, and Happy Halloween!