Revising: Big Mistakes and Big Lessons

I finally reached my goal for draft one of The Tower Project this month, with a little over 70,000 words written. It was an accomplishment that felt both bitter sweet, and immensely satisfying. With draft one in the bag, where does that leave me?

In short, starting from scratch.

Image of sketched skull on pink background: “Draft one complete” #TheTowerProjectWIP

I’m glad to have completed my draft, but for the last 30,000 words or so I’ve been aware that extensive rewrites are going to be necessary to bring this thing together. I’m hoping I can learn from the mistakes I made on draft one, from my outlining process to the final words on the page, to create something more cohesive with draft two. Here are some of my blunders, maybe you can see yourself in them! (or just wanna laugh at/with me, that’s okay too ;p).

  1. Focused too much on character and not enough on plot.

When I started outlining, I was very much into the characters and the world building and the aesthetic and the final moments of my story, and not very into… everything that comes between the first and last pages. I was sure my story would work because I knew where it began and ended, and I loved my characters. The middle chapters became a slog and I often felt like I was barreling ahead with no direction, or feeling around in the dark for the next scene.

2. What’s in a mystery?

The Tower Project is a story about love and loss and trauma and healing, but it’s also supposed to be a mystery. I say supposed to, because it took me about 16 chapters to realize I hadn’t set my mystery up properly. I was so afraid that if I gave away too much, readers would be able to guess the ending that I forgot… readers should be able to make guesses! That’s half the fun! Turns out, I didn’t have a strong enough handle on all the little clues and misdirections that make a mystery interesting. My stakes weren’t high enough and I ultitmately abandoned the only clues I had written because… they didn’t have anything to do with anything XD.

3. The promise of the premise.

In Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat one of the beats is the promise of the premise, it means that if readers pick up a book and read that it includes ghosts and mysteries and exorcisms — you gotta deliver on your promise. At times, my lack of conviction on *how* the world works in my story lead me to avoid the very elements that make it a unique tale. My first-draft readers kept asking “more ghosts please?”

4. What’s your purpose here, exactly?

Looking at draft one with a critical lens I can see there are characters and plot lines that… don’t go anywhere or contribute anything. One of the things I’ll be doing is combining two characters into one, preventing me from accidentally “fridging” one of my characters by giving her something to do in act 2. The other thing I’ll be doing is critically evaluating one of my characters who was a reader favourite but doesn’t contribute much other than moral support. I’d like to find a way to salvage his role in the story, but he has to be an active participant just like everyone else! Lastly, I’ll be adding a new character whose presence is going to change the trajectory and feel of the story and hopefully sets up a new mystery to unpack in the future.

Those are the big issues with draft one! The mystery now is how to tackle revisions. I’m currently mapping out plot points and working on my mystery elements and clues it’s flowing in a satisfactory way and I’m doling out the right info at the right time. I’m also trying to determine what scenes from draft one can be salvaged and rewritten, versus complete re-writes. It’s gonna be hard to kill my darlings here!

If you have suggestions or tips on revising, leave them in the comments! What elements from your first draft didn’t make it into draft two? What were some of your biggest mistakes or greatest successes during the drafting process?

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