When Revision Happens Before The First Draft Is Done

Last night was brilliant. Completely unexpected and frustrating beyond frustrating, but last night may have been the best thing to happen to my book since I started writing it.

I have been sending chapters as I write them to a friend of mine, and I finally was able to sit down and talk to her last night. She gave me excellent feedback, not pleasant to hear at times and not all that unexpected either, but it was very helpful. I had no idea who my main character was, and I had no idea what anyone’s motives were. And it was blatantly clear in my writing. All of that brought attention to the fact that the historical backdrop was full of holes, lacking essential tension to make the story I had mean anything. There was no reason for any of it to be happening! Like I said, it was frustrating.

After about an hour or so of agonizing, I pulled out the map I had drawn for her to take a look at. Slowly, we began to piece together a history for this world, one that would give motive and meaning to the story I wanted to tell. The ideas picked up speed, snowballing and gaining substance. I made the decision to cut out several minor characters to keep my already complex world from getting more complicated. Politics were added. The first four chapters were cut and replaced with a new storyline that would fit into the world we created.

I still didn’t know who my main character was. I had facts about her, knew her name and her story, but I didn’t know who she was. My friend hopped on her laptop, pulled up a personality test, and had me answer the questions for my main character. At the end of all of that, I finally knew who she was.

Now, I am faced with the dilemma of what to do with all of this new information. I have quite a bit of my book written, and I just had a few scenes here and there near the end to stitch it all together into the hodgepodge mess that I like to call “draft zero”. I can’t decide if I should write those scenes before beginning the next draft with all of this new information. I now have a different story from the one I started telling, and it is with a character that I know instead of one that I don’t know. The stories are similar, but they are not the same.

I don’t want to leave draft zero uncompleted before starting in on revisions. Well, I suppose I have my answer. I’ll stop stressing over the details and get those last few scenes onto paper, regardless of the quality. I can fix it later. The sooner I get those scenes written, the sooner I can start revising.