Tuesday, January 11, 2011

10 Reasons I Don't Share Early Drafts

You know when you return to a manuscript that there will be language to tighten or heighten, but then there are the errors that make you wonder why you don't fall down more:

(in no particular order...)

Your main character's height changes.
Yes, this has happened to me. He started off very tall and lost about 6 inches somewhere in the last third of the story.

You intended to drop a small but vital clue early in the story.
Intended is the operative word in the previous sentence.

Inconsistent character names.
Yes, I know about 'Search and Replace'. I have no explanation.

Rooms varying locations.
When you're writing a mystery taking place in a large house this can happen. I drew a map after discovering the movable rooms.

A character having favourite phrases.
I thought it would be endearing. I discovered it was irritating. Too much, too much.

A wise character who never makes a mistake.
Dull, dull, dull.

The rhythm of characters' dialogue radically altering for a few pages.
Rather a large uh-oh.
The pace (usually somewhere in the middle) slows to the speed of a sloth on a slow day.
When writers curse about 'the saggy middle' they're not usually referring to their waistlines.

Scenes tipping over into melodrama.
Drama is good. Melodrama makes me roll my eyes. If I'm groaning, I shudder to think what someone else would do.

A scene which took ages to write and you adore.
Unfortunately, it does nothing for plot or character development. Agony ensues.


  1. Elspeth - I've been nodding vigourously the whole time I've been reading this post. Those are all traps that I've fallen into.. No fun at all. And then there's the ever-popular "Timeline alert:" a character who's already had three conversations with another character cannot, two pages later, meet that character for the first time. *Sigh*

  2. I've had the name changing issue.

    When Sarah and I were working on WILS, the protag was on a date that was supposed to be rather spectacular. When we re-read it, we both thought, "Good Lord, that was a boring date."

    Gotta love revision!

  3. Good post, Elspeth, I really relate to it! I never share my first drafts because they are too rough and I'm still finding my way. I feel that too early feedback would halt the process and maybe even be discouraging. (Let's face it, the first draft is never the strongest one, the writing isn't that good, and all the disparities you mention above pop out.) For me, the most helpful feedback comes after I've caught some of those earlier mistakes.

  4. I have done all of these except for changing the height of a character. I can replace that one with having a week with 8 days.

  5. Ah, yes. I ended up drawing a floor plan of my heroine's apartment. Even though it was really small, I kept forgetting where things were.

    But I don't mind sharing because most of the time, it's my crit partners who find these things. Like yesterday, one pointed out the dog's cell phone rang. (Remember my post about not having similar names -- it holds for pets, too! Dog's name started with the same two letters as a person in the scene.)

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  6. Margot; I have had characters being introduced to each other twice. Not a good moment.

    Elisa; That must have been a fun time. Isn't it great that we get the chance to change things?

    Elizabeth; I never show anyone a work early on, because I know the writing isn't the best. I don't need anyone to confirm it. That would just be embarrassing - both for the other person and for me!

    Carol; Finding out his height had changed wasn't one of my best moments. I'd honestly forgotten he'd started out tall. I've never done the week with 8 days...yet.

    Terry; I know all about the trap of having similar names! At one point, for some reason I was overpopulated with character names that started with 'R'. Most annoying.

  7. These are all so true... (annoyingly so)

  8. The best one for me was when my agent caught a scene that I'd set in the 1800s...but I mentioned the doorbell ringing. Now you see why I don't write historicals!

  9. Ha! Yes, so true. My characters like changing clothes in the middle of the scene...without actually changing...

  10. It takes so long to get it all right! And so many revisions! Sometimes those early drafts are really embarrassing. Ok, let's face it, they are ALWAYS really embarrassing, at least mine are!

  11. HAHA! I am mid edit and on my read through noticed the same nurse has three different names... and those hints you forget to drop? I have the annoying habit of dropping them three or four times...


Please leave a comment as I love to hear from you!