I’ve been working on my novel for a while now, just over a year. I’m now a chapter into draft two and I’m really enjoying the process of writing without looking back over my first draft all that much. I feel that draft one gave me a grounding in the story that I want to tell, and draft two, whatever it may be, will likely look closer to the final product.
I was at the British Library a month or so ago to see a preview of Hanif Kureshi’s archives. One of the documents they had on display was a first chapter of a novel that, at first, I didn’t actually recognise. It was only about three paragraphs in that I realised I was reading the first draft of The Buddha of Suberbia and that the final novel was so far removed from the initial one, that they felt like two entirely different novels.
I like that. I thought it would be good to do a comparison between the first draft of my novel, and the second. Just taking the first two paragraphs for comparison though, so there’s very little in the way of revealing much.
There’s also something for you writers to get on with on your own blogs, at the end of this I’m going to nominate two bloggers to do the same thing with their novels, and talk about the what changed in their opening paragraphs.
The truth, since you asked is that my uncle isn’t to blame. I know what people say and I hear the whispers behind my back but it’s true.
“Things happen,” he once said to me, “things happen and sometimes they can’t be stopped or changed or explained.” That’s what I think this was. That’s what I’ll always think this was. Mu uncle was a good man and no matter what anyone else says, that’s what I’ll always believe.
“They’ve found him, he’s in a bad shape. I have to go to him,” My father said to me over the phone before hanging up. I stood for a while in the living room of our tiny house, staring at the walls, fraying ends of wallpaper, dusty picture frames, the thin tendrils of spiderwebs wafting. My father’s last words to me, I have to go to him echoing and bouncing off the walls. Looking back now, I wonder what stopped me from rushing out of the door, from grabbing hold of my father as he made his way to the car, to find my uncle; and telling him to stop, to rethink, to save us all.
So, draft two is not there just yet. I like it more, it has more immediacy and it throws you into the story right away. It tells you exactly what the relationship between the main characters is like in a much better, less showy way than draft one does. It’s better written I think too, way less of me showing off. There is still that sense of hindsight which I want to hang over the story, although this time, our narrator isn’t addressing an unnamed ‘you’ who is listening to the story (draft one got caught up in that way too much for its own good, and it’s one of the big elements which is getting chucked out of this draft).
I definitely prefer draft two, for many reasons. I feel like, now I know what story I’m telling I can strip the novel for parts, remove the useless bits and make sure that I’m telling the story I came to tell, and not whatever story I tried to tell in the middle (seriously, I have no idea).
So that’s mine, but what’s yours? Pop two sentences in the comments below, one from your first draft and one from your latest and tell me what’s changed between the two!