First Drafts and Burn Piles

rose-1143806_640Are freak snow storms and first drafts the same? To me they are. Once upon a time on an October day, my sunny oasis was visited by a weather front. Weathermen and women (so as not to be gender biased) reported lowering temps and 40 mile wind gusts. At 7:30 am the next morning, Grandma called us and exclaimed, “Look out the window!” Big conglomerate flakes, the size of the cellulite in my thighs, were falling. Not here and there like our typical winter flurries, but in a literal whiteout snow storm.

This white phenomenon was a little unique because the day before it was 70 degrees. Leaves painted in nature’s fall pallet were still on the trees. My beautiful fall flowers were in a riot of yellow and purple blooms. Note the past tense. The weight of the snow stripped the heavy tree leaves taking quite a few limbs with them. My poor shocked flowers bowed to the severity of the unexpected heavy deluge, never to spring back.

So there we were a few days later, cleaning up the mess. There is a lot of after action required when you have an unexpected snow storm. After the giddiness of the novelty, the childlike excitement of seeing Olaf sized flakes falling, after the bazillion photos are posted to Facebook, you have to take a look at the damage the unexpected white blanket left behind.

The same is true in a first draft. You have to look at it in retrospect then haul off the dead wood, fallen from its own weight. This entails removing superfluous scenes, extraneous conversations, lengthy descriptions, unnecessary backstory and anything else that doesn’t move the action along.

A first draft also requires a thorough raking. Just like I did after I chopped the dying flower stems down and hauled them off to the burn pile. You have to rake through the first draft looking for misused homonyms (my nemesis), spelling errors, typos, wrong names, wrong time, logic issues, duplicate wording, slow pacing, improper paging and paragraphing, etc. After a thorough critical examination of your work, you will discover that you also have a lot of blah prose that is best suited for a burn pile.

I replaced the carnage in my yard with spring bulbs and a layer of pine straw. In your draft, you have to replace dull conversation with something that zings. Descriptions will need clearer resolution. Characters will require more depth. Situations will demand more intensity. After all the debris is hauled away and replaced with viable prose, then you’re ready to give a farewell toast to the completion of your story.

Brenda PhotoAn award-winning author, Brenda Gable is a graduate of North Carolina State University and the Air Force Institute of Technology. She is published in southern magazines and anthologies. She’s the mother of two adult children, lover of an absentminded yet brilliant husband, and caregiver to a clan of cats, one hyper dog, and a noble horse. Brenda enjoys sports and daydreaming up “what if” scenarios while she attacks the weeds in her flower and vegetable gardens. Her twisted mind has produced a series of New Camelot tales. She hopes you enjoy reading them as much as she enjoyed creating them.

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