March 2023 Writing Update: Rough Drafts Are…Rough

Writing is hard. You’d think after a decade of serious writing, I’d have it figured out. But part of the problem for writing as long as I have? Story ideas grow and get tangled together and make it tricky to know how all the plots, characters, and world-building piece together. Tied up with that, with my stories, I usually have a clear, strong vision of the ending, but this future orientation often makes the beginning and the middle cloudy. Much of the time, it’s difficult to write a natural pathway to where I want the story to lead. And this is the struggle I am continuously facing with writing the rough draft of The Myth-Keepers Book 1, my current work-in-progress.

I started this rough draft at the very beginning of January 2022. Since then, it’s been a stop-and-start process of writing as I keep reworking the plot and go back to revise what’s already written. It’s been a wild ride, and though I hoped to finish the rough draft before the end of 2022, it didn’t happen. Which is okay. I’m slowly figuring out the answers to questions about whether or not I’m forcing certain events or characters to come into play, if I’m revealing too much or not enough, if my world building is clear or ill-presented—in short, everything. And despite being on my third? fourth? outline of the draft, I already know that I need to overhaul the story. Again. That being said, I’ve determined to finish the draft according to its current outline, though basically everything I write for it will be scrapped. Yes, I’ve committed to finishing a book I will essentially rewrite all over again.

Why the heck would I do that? Because I love to torture myself, obviously.

No, I’m kidding. There’s actually a few reasons. Hopefully good reasons.

So, why finish a version of a story I intend to change significantly? First of all, after a year-plus of writing a draft (which is much longer time than my historic average), I could use a small confidence boost. I personally get renewed energy and motivation for a project when I finish a full draft. So, I think the wisest thing for me to do, in light of my constant “back to the drawing board” tendency with this particular project, is to persevere. To finish. To fuel my determination for this story through completing a full book. I believe this will be a relieving step in the right direction.

Second, nothing in writing is wasted. While my ideas for how I will revise the story will mean pretty much everything gets a fresh coat of paint or an entirely new cast for certain scenes, the story still has good bones. In my experience, I find it more useful to start from a slightly shaped chunk of marble (i.e. a really rough draft) than a blank slate (i.e. an empty WordDoc). It’s easier, in some ways, to tackle the project as a revision rather than a brand new rewrite. Beyond that, even if much of what I’ve written ends up dumped in my Archive file, never to see another set of human eyes, it’s still practice for writing this series. I’m learning how to write the characters, the magic-laden combat, the world, etc. Also, I’m experimenting with character arcs in this current draft, which is giving me a sense of what does and what doesn’t work. It’s all useful for the grand scheme of the series.

Now, you might also be asking: Why on earth do you need to change the whole story for a fifth time?

Well, it needs to be changed. Honestly. Yes, I am the type of writer who changes her mind often, because it’s hard for me to be satisfied with a story, and the newness and intrigue of ideas wears off somewhat quickly. But, in this case, the story needs to change to honor my world-building more.

Let me explain. The Myth-Keepers is meant to follow the lives of a group of magical humans and other mythical beings who live hidden among our modern day Earth (United States, in particular). Now, it occurred to me as I was writing that my story reads and feels like it could take place in any old fantasy world, mostly. While the Myth-Keepers (the group) do stay separate from the Ordos (humans without magical abilities), in the larger scope of the series, this separation becomes a source of conflict. The series as a whole raises the question of “If we have the power to help, why don’t we use it for even the Ordos?” Yet that hint of tension is nowhere present in the current first book. From both a thematic standpoint and a world-building standpoint, that’s not good. It’s poor setup on my part as the author. It’s poor development of the world and imagination and wonder that I feel when I think about the possibility of this reality.

So, Book 1needs to have more of an Ordo-centric slant to it. I’ve got some ideas about how to better incorporate the ordinary world into the story, so I’m exploring how to best merge that with the current plot. Still, it will take considerable revisions.

The final question for today’s writing update: what’s the timeline for this? Well, I’m pleased to say that I managed to write 20,000 words of The Myth-Keepers Book 1 this February, which was my goal. I only have a few chapters left to write, so I hope to be done with the full draft by end of March. After that, I’ll take a week or two to reoutline Draft 2 and jump straight into revisions. I’m hopeful that this second draft will be a shareable copy to send to beta readers, perhaps as early as this summer. But check back with me at the end of May, when my next writing update comes out.

If you’re a non-writer, I hope you found this insight into the writing process interesting. For my fellow writers, I hope this is a good reminder to think critically about your setting. It’s an overlooked yet essential part of your story. That’s all from me! Stay tuned next week for a longer, more practical reflection on the drafting process, too.