My First Draft Sucks! Now What?

Now what?  Well, I eat chocolate.  Of course, I do that on most days so nothing really helpful there…
No, no….come back.  I have a solution.  It’s this magical thing called REVISION.  Ooohhh, see how it sparkles?!?!  OK, it doesn’t sparkle, but it is magical.  It can turn your shitty first draft into something wonderful – at least, it can with a lot of hard work.
Luckily, I found a course (and a teacher) that’s just short of a miracle: Holly Lisle’s “How to Revise Your Novel.”  Holly teaches you how to go from the wrecked imperfect novel you have to the shining beautiful novel you want to have.  It’s a big course (she has a few big courses and a few smaller ones, all worth looking into) – right now I’m on Lesson 12, and I think I’m about half-way through the course.  It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t always been fun, but it has been interesting to see things I would never have seen.  Mostly, to realize that my novel isn’t that bad and I can make it even better.  I can make it great!
Right now I’m working on characters.  Who stays, who gets better, who goes, who gets blended with another guy to make an even better guy, etc.  I did okay in this regard with my first draft.  Most of my characters stay and most have minimal work to get better.  I didn’t blend (nor did I have to) and only two (very minor) characters got the boot.  This is not to say I won’t have any rewriting to do.  No, no….I already figured out that I have about 10 new scenes to write (from scratch) and at least 10 more have to be completely rewritten.  See….hard work.
I’m using index cards to keep track of how much rewriting (or totally new writing) each scene needs and it’s quite colorful – and I’m not even using as bright of colors as Holly suggests I use.   On these cards I’m also listing characters by scene to see the players all laid out in front of me.
Now, I have a theatre background.  I have a BFA in Theatre Performance so it’s easier for me to call my characters players and places to be called Sets and Scenery.  She also had us list all the props – again, terminology that makes complete sense.  This is not to say that I don’t get confused sometimes and lose my way.  At least twice now (maybe three times) I have thrown my hands up in the air and admitted defeat.  “I quit!”  I’ve said to my husband, “The book is too bad, I’m going to give up.”   He kisses me and tells me it’s not as bad as I think.  I call my Mom and tell her the same thing.  She tells me to take a few days, take a break, then come back.  They are both right.  Damn!

So, I trudge along with my index cards, my binder full of worksheets, my colored pens, and my Muse sitting next to me – waiting for me to need her again (thank you Muse).  I’m not sure what comes next because I haven’t read ahead (truth time – I usually do) so I do the work one week, sometimes two, at a time and keep going as best as I can.

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