The First Draft: Making a Mess

Creativity, and mess, are not functions of age.

Creativity, and mess, are not functions of age.

What happens when you leave a writer alone with a PC, MS Word, and a rough outline for the first draft? The same thing as when you leave a three-year-old alone in a room with a box of crayons and a perfectly wallpapered white wall. You get some creativity and a lot of mess.

My first drafts are never pretty (except if you like red highlighting), but this one looks more like partially digested spaghetti than most. Things at Frontier towers are still very much in transition, with lots of really basic setting stuff undecided. (Paradoxically there is also a lot of really specific detail that’s been nailed down for weeks—just not what I need for my story.) My protagonist is currently from an unknown planet; lives on an unknown planet; is travelling to unknown planets via more unknown planets. As you can imagine, my story isn’t exactly brimming over with a sense of place or much descriptive brilliance. When the most common phrase is: ‘confirm this with Frontier’, pacing and dramatic impact are also somewhat lacking. I’ve never written anything where, if I see a hole, I can’t simply fill it with something from my imagination.

There are signs of hope, and promise, for the future. On the Frontier forums a time scale of ‘in the next few weeks’ has been mentioned for the appearance of the details my story needs. I now know the destination, even if the exact route has yet to be determined in terms of chapters and scenes.

What is looking uncertain is the arrival date…. So far there has been: illness, waiting, contributing to the Thargoid guide, more waiting, tearing up a first draft and inventing a whole new plot, more waiting, doing an outline, and some more waiting. Now I’m writing around holes in the universe: I’m attempting to knit the partially digested spaghetti into a couture space suit. It’s a written fashion statement about as pretty as Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress. Getting from A to Z is going to take time, and the launch (or is that lunch) has been significantly delayed.

And then we move on to the destination. I was going to dock with a rock hermitage located somewhere just outside the Oort Cloud.

The Oort Cloud.

The Oort Cloud – inspiration for The Three Stooges.

Now I feel like I’ve set my sights past Alpha Phoenicis.

Alpha Phoenicis - a star, quite far away.

Alpha Phoenicis – a star, quite far away.

Other writers are being up-front about their progress, so I will be too. I’m somewhere between ten to eighteen percent through my first draft (depending on the final length). In the Kickstarter I promised something ‘substantially longer’ than the Dark Wheel (19,000 words). I also said the length of the book would be dictated by the plot. The plot has grown dramatically, as has the cast of characters, from inception to the present. Now it looks like I may be trying for a complete novel. Whether I can deliver that by March, 2014, with the re-drafting, beta-reading, content editing, language and grammar editing, formatting and getting the official approvals necessary remains to be seen. I will be giving it my best shot. I will stick by what I said in the Kickstarter about the delivery date. It will be released, ‘only when I am happy with the quality of the final edit. The book will be done right and not rushed.’


Images: Boy with paints: © Hemera Technologies, 2004. Space Images: captured from Google Chrome Experiments: Stars

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4 Responses to The First Draft: Making a Mess

  1. Commander Halley says:

    All sounds good to me; keep doing what you’re doing! The project has evolved (for the better), so it’ll take longer – no problem.

  2. Allen Stroud says:

    I’m genuinely quite glad my plan doesn’t involve me starting the main story for a month or two. Well done on how far you’ve got though. I feel your frustration.

    • TJames says:

      Thanks, Allen. From what Frontier have been posting on the forums they should have nailed many more of the awkward but necessary detail of the Elite: Dangerous universe by the time you start. So everything should be really straightforward and pain-free when you begin writing. There will be no complications, hitches, problems or obstacles of any kind, I’m sure. ;-) Good luck!

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