The First Draft Blues

Ahem. Cue harmonica music. 

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WAH WAH, wah wah. 

I wrote myself a novel,

I made myself a book. 

Four months and seventeen days,

is how long it took. 

I slaved in the mornings, 

I beat my brow at night.

When the manuscript was finished,

I thought it turned out alright. 

But then I read the first chapter,

I don’t know what to do. 

It’s the worst thing I’ve ever read,

I’VE GOT THE FIRST DRAFT BLUES!!!!

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First drafts can really suck. When you finish the months long marathon you’ve been running, maintaining the same emotions and themes and thought process the whole time in order to write cohesively and concisely, you have this brief moment of accomplishment to enjoy. 

Emphasis on brief

Because the second you turn around and read the first chapter, you remember why it’s called a first draft. A rough draft. And let me tell you, they’re always rough. They get less rough as you complete more literary marathons, but each and every one requires a lot of editing. 

The draft I just finished? So much editing. All the editing. And what bums me out the most, what really hits me with the first draft blues, is that I take my time when penning everything down so that my first draft is already somewhat edited and reformed. I’ve already gone from timelines, notes, and rough drafts written by hand to finally typing it up. And it’s still a discombobulated mess. 

But…

Every few pages…

Every couple of paragraphs…

I read something that makes me know the editing is worth it. I read a sentence that is gold. I get to a scene that is played out perfectly. I find a description of something that’s clever and makes me laugh. Which is good! There are parts of the story that I like, hidden in the tangled mess of words that came from me vomiting up my ideas onto paper. That’s good! That gives me encouragement to work and edit the darn thing, because I know it’s worth it. Because if I can get the whole to match the quality of the best individual parts, then I’ve got a pretty damn good book. 

And yet…

WAH WAH, wah wah.

I made it past the first chapter,

and on to chapter two.

It’s so much worse than the first one,

I’VE GOT THE FIRST DRAFT BLUES, YEAH!!

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This week I’ll be talking about a more light-hearted novel intended for a younger audience. But don’t let that alone turn you away from this mysterious and oddly enrapturing tale. This week I’m discussing Randal Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Now, unless you haven’t ventured into a book store or movie theater in years, you’ve probably already heard of this story before. It received a lot of attention when first published, is part of a larger series now, and has a movie adapted from it (which sucks!). But perhaps you’re wondering what all the hub-bub is about for a book with a levitating girl on the cover, yes? Allow me to whet your appetite. 

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Our protagonist is a 15–soon to be 16–year old boy who lives in Englewood, Florida. He’s grown up with parents, a best friend, aunts and uncles, but his favorite person of all is his grandfather. His grandfather tells stories about when he was younger, the odd boarding house he stayed in, and the war he fought in, all with pictures to back it up. But after Jacob’s grandfather dies, rather violently, Jacob is thrust into a past that is also his future but certainly not the present. He’s thrown into a not-so-typical YA adventure plot that takes him all over the world, and all through time. 

PLOT: The overarching plot of this story is almost painfully obvious. By the end of the 2nd chapter I was already calling what the end would be, what the next twist was, who the ultimate antagonist was, etc. The main parts of the story are so obviously foreshadowed, they’re telegraphed. It’s hard NOT to anticipate what will happen next. At least for the main story. But each character’s development, how they interacted, and where some of them ended up I couldn’t predict. Bottom line: this feels like one of the first times Randal Riggs wrote out a full novel and plotted it. The hallmarks, the pacing, the markers signalling the next phase of the plot; they’re all too new, as if Riggs doesn’t have much experience with them. But one of the coolest features of this book are the photos. Riggs searched high a low for all kinds of creepy photos to use for his book, and he did an excellent job. Even if you don’t read it, flip through the book sometime. The photos alone will intrigue you.

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CHARACTERS: These characters were quite good. Each was encapsulated in their own personalities and traits. Their dialogue was, for the most part, very natural. Their interactions with each other felt authentic and not forced, again, for the most part. The antagonists were good, as well. They weren’t full blown evil, which is what I was hoping for, but they had believable motivations and strengths. I also enjoyed each character’s story. While there is the larger, general story of the novel that links all events together, each character seemed to have their own purpose/story to tell within the larger story. And they did so brilliantly. 

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SETTING: I give the settings and their descriptions a thumbs up. Though at times I noticed another feature of a first time author: over description. One thing newer writers tend to do, and I’ve done this myself A LOT, is to over describe their settings. As the author, they have the mental image of what they want the reader to see in their mind. When they write, they try to describe that mental image as much as possible, clarifying as many things as they can. They want the reader’s mental image to reflect their mental image in perfection, so they explain every minute detail about a place, boring the reader and taking up 3 whole pages. The sign of an experienced, well-published author is that they can sum up a setting’s description, wholly and completely, in a few sentences, if not one sentence. It’s certainly not easy, but it makes your writing stand apart. 

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MISCELLANEOUS: Before I drop my verdict I wanted to highlight two other aspects of this writing: Style and adaptation. The writing style of this novel was, and I can’t stress this enough, fantastic. Yes, the content and story had negatives, but there was something about Riggs’ style of writing that captured me. I read this book in less than a week, and not because I was invested in the story. When looking at this book you would not be wrong in assuming it’s for young adults. But the vocabulary, sentence structure, and inner monologues were definitely not for young adults. I was, and still am, very impressed with the writing style. Now, adaptation, which deals strictly with the movie. The movie for this novel is a horrible, no good, awful excuse at adaptation. Yes, Eva Green (Miss Peregrine’s actress) is an incredibly attractive actress (and I mean, incredibly attractive).

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And yes, Samuel Jackson (the antagonist) is always a crowd favorite.

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Heck, even Dame Judy Dench is in this movie! But even with those A-list actors the movie is a steaming pile of donkey dung. Please remember: avoid movie at all costs. AVOID

VERDICT: You read all of my criteria? You stuck around all the way to the end of the review? Good. Then you already know what I’m going to say. In my opinion, you should read this novel. It’s not going to take you long, the combination of exciting action and good writing will help you finish it in no time. You’re on your own if you wish to explore the rest of the series, though. But we should all be able to agree that this first novel, at least, is a fantastic read. 

Life As A Writer

The other day I went to a local restaurant where the people know me as a regular. As I paid for my meal the cashier asked me, “Hey, so what do you do for a living anyway?” And instead of proudly proclaiming, “I, sir, am I writer! A wordsmith, a stringer of sentences, a paragon of paragraphs!” I sort of blanked. I chuckled to myself and eventually told the person, “I am actually a writer.” As if I couldn’t believe it myself.

You know you're a writer when... - Writers Write Creative Blog: Continue reading “Life As A Writer”

Interview with Author Randal Greene

A short while ago I met a fellow budding author named Randal Eldon Greene who was just starting off his journey into the big bad world of publishing.

Just look at that handsome devil

He was kind enough to offer some support and encouragement on my writing earlier this year, and now that his writing is being published I wanted to help support him in return. His first book, titled Descriptions of Heaven, has finally been released and is available through his site here, or on the mighty Amazon here.

Spoiler Alert: It’s a good book

One of the ways I wanted to help Randal was by pimping out his story to my followers and helping readers get to know him a little better. Randal graciously agreed to answer some questions for a short interview.

Continue reading “Interview with Author Randal Greene”

Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

Are you familiar with the Stanley Kubrick movie The Shining? You know, the movie that made us all afraid of twins and empty hotels? 

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Are you familiar with Stephen King’s novel which Stanley based his movie off of? No? Well go read it, and try not to get too scared, because this week’s In My Opinion Review I’m talking about its sequel, Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

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Continue reading “Dr. Sleep by Stephen King”