Why first drafts suck, Part One

Hi! Dominique Gibson is back with another post. I have been thinking about doing this for a while and since I am on vacation from my current job, I felt like now is the time for me to take advantage of this opportunity to get some posts done. One of the posts I am doing today comes in two parts because part of my manuscript for my thesis class one was broken up into ten thousand word increments for the first course. The second class I am taking now is the same way and we have to have a total of 50,000 to 80,000 words written before I get to the third part of the class, which involves rewriting the book.

So, I decided to do a post on the notes my professor gave me when it came to writing the 10,000 word requirement on the first draft of my fourth book, A Phiman’s Betrayal. Here is what she said about the story in the first round:

Hi Dominique~

I really like the concept of your world. I love that there are rules to magic and shape-changing. I also love that there’s magic in addition to the shape-changing. It’s clear that you have a very good sense of your world and how it works. 

I did have some difficulties, however. The first is that I didn’t get much sense of the world. I think part of the issue is that you’re so familiar with it that you think you’ve conveyed more than you have. I needed more worldbuilding, more sensory detail. I didn’t get a sense of what anything looked like, the smells, the textures, and so on. I needed to be more anchored and you’ve got a really unique world that you need to showcase a bit more. 

I really had a hard time with how dramatic the relationships were. That’s partly because they focused on surface things and not the deeper emotions. E. finds J cheating on her. He’s her fiance. All she seems to focus on is that he cheated with a man. There’s no real sense of the deep betrayal by someone she loved. The questioning of her own judgement. The sense of loss, which, because it coincides with her non-biological mother’s death, means that the sense of loss is going to be HUGE. But she’s only reacting on the surface. And her feelings for Liam seem completely wrong in the context. 

Then when Liam kisses her, right after she’s found her fiance has betrayed her, she doesn’t really acknowledge that she’s doing to Wen what Shawn did to her. That she’s as bad or worse than J because she’s doing the same thing. Likewise, Liam dismisses how he acts, though he condemn’s J for the same behavior. I find all of this difficult to buy. 

Because of the lack of reactions, the emotions and actions they do demonstrate seem shallow and even juvenile. I mean juvenile in the teenage sense of things. Super dramatic and yet over relatively unimportant things. They are missing the important issues

You do a lot of telling rather than showing. I especially noticed it when it came to talking about feelings and relationships. Because these feelings are told and don’t seem to match in terms of actions, they don’t ring true. Then J is upset because Shawn has Wen in the house and immediately jumps to a cheating conclusion. I don’t understand why.  Again, feels more teenagery than not. And because of all the concentration on the potential cheating with everyone, you lose the tension from the threat of attackers and the danger they are in. The death of the mother and the attack on E seem almost like an afterthought. That needs to be more central. 

I really don’t buy the way Liam is with E. It’s fast and given that E has just come out of a relationship, he’d want to comfort her, not move in on her. At least not yet. And he’d have to know that betraying Wen would definitely not go over well. And when he grabs her phone and kisses her, it feels like it’s abusive than not. Controlling. It makes him unlikeable. So does his demands that he be the one to protect her and no one else can help. That’s incredibly selfish and controlling, not to mention arrogant. 

Wen turns on E and L and becomes bloodthirsty really fast. I have a hard time buying it. Again, it’s the shallowness of the reaction. They cheated on me, so I’m going to kill them. It’s way over the top. 

I think you need better motivations for characters and more realistic reactions. 

Some more minor things: You have them use each other’s names a lot. That’s not something people tend to do. I’d reduce that. You also have quite a few random verb tense shifts, spelling, punctuation, and grammar issues. You want to clean those up

You should also have a look at dialog formatting. Only the speaker’s actions and thoughts can be in the paragraph containing the speaker’s speech. When another person speaks or acts or thinks, they need a new paragraph. You’ve got some mashing up and that makes things a bit confusing. 

I know that all these comments may seem daunting, and probably are, but you have a lot of great stuff going on here and you just need to sharpen and bring things out a bit more. Basically it’s drafty, just as it should be.

After you get a chance to assimilate this information, I’d love to have a conference with you via Zoom or phone. Let me know if that’s something you’re interested in and we can set it up.

That’s it for Part One of why first drafts suck. Check back in soon for part two.

Dominique Gibson

Dominique Gibson knew she wanted to be a writer ever since she sat down at her plastic table and wrote her first book out of sheer boredom at eight years old. Years later, she decided to go get her Bachelor’s Degree from Columbia College Chicago. She is obtaining her master’s degree in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. When not writing, she is busy teaching two year olds at a daycare center in Skokie, IL. For more information, check out her website at https://dominiquegibsonauthor.com/2018/06/23/the-journey-begins/ for more information.

Published by Dominique Gibson

My first love has always been writing since I was eight years old. After getting my Bachelor's Degree in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago and struggling for years trying to get published the traditional way, I decided that the only way to promote my work was to promote myself which is why I am self-publishing my paranormal romance The Truson S.E.T. Series.

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