Friday, May 6, 2011

Think Your First Draft Sucks Major and You Should Just Quit? Don’t! Why Revising Does a World of Good

Every time I start a first draft of something new, I want to cry. I moan to myself, “Oh my writing sucks! Why am I even doing this?! I suckkkkkkkkkk……….”

But then I remember that my best work happens when I revise (especially after draft #85 or so), so it’s important to just get the first draft down, and deal with cleaning it up later.

I just recently finished up copyedits on SCORE and pretty soon my book will be off to the printers so ARCs can be made. Woo!  As I was doing my final readthru, I started wondering how much this book has changed since I first started writing it back in 2009.

And boy has it changed! Wow, the first draft was choppy and didn’t flow and had no personality. Now, I think it’s much better.

So, without further ado, I present the first page of my very very very first draft of SCORE, before I ever even had a plot! But before you read the crappy version, read the first page as it is now. Enjoy!

FIRST PAGE NOW:

I once read that football was invented so people wouldn’t notice summer ending. But I couldn’t wait for summer vacation to end. I couldn’t wait for football. Football, dominator of fall—football, love of my life.

“Blue forty-two! Blue forty-two! Red seventeen!” I yell.

The cue is red seventeen. JJ hikes me the ball. The defense is blitzing. JJ slams into a freshman safety, knocking him to the ground. The rest of my offensive line destroys the defense. Nice. The field’s wide open, but my wide receiver isn’t where he’s supposed to be.

“What the hell, Higgins?” I mutter to myself.

Dancing on my tiptoes, I scan the end zone and find Sam Henry instead, and hurl the ball. It flies through the air, a perfect spiral, heading right where I wanted it to go. He catches the ball, spikes it, and does this really stupid dance. Henry looks like a freaking ballerina. With his thin frame and girly blond hair, he actually could be the star of the New York Ballet.

I’m gonna give him hell for his dance.

This is my senior year at Hundred Oaks High, and I’m captain, so I’m allowed to keep my players in line. Even though he’s my best friend, Henry has always been a showoff. His antics get us penalties.
Through the speaker in my helmet, I hear Coach Miller say, “Nice throw. This is your year, Woods. You’re going to lead us to the state championship. I can feel it…Hit the showers.” What the coach actually means? I know you’re not going to blow it in the final seconds of the championship game like you did last year.

And he’s right. I can’t.

The University of Alabama called last week—on the first day of school—to tell me a recruiter is coming to watch me play on Friday night. And then a very fancy-looking letter arrived, inviting me to visit campus in September. An official visit. If they like what they see, they’ll sign me in February.

I can’t screw this season up.

I pull my helmet off and grab a bottle of Gatorade and my playbook. Most of the guys are already goofing off and heading over to watch cheerleading practice across the field, but I ignore them and look up into the stands.

I spot Mom sitting with Carter’s dad, a former NFL player. My dad isn’t here, of course. Asshole.

Lots of parents come to watch our practices because football is the big thing to do around here. Here being Franklin, Tennessee, home of the Hundred Oaks Red Raiders, eight-time state champions.
Mom always comes to practice—she’s been supporting me ever since Pop Warner youth football days, but sometimes she worries I’ll get hurt, even though the worst thing that’s ever happened was a concussion. Sophomore year, when JJ took a breather, the coach brought in this idiot to play center, the idiot didn’t cover me, and I got slammed hard. Otherwise, I’m a rock. No knee problems, no broken limbs.

Dad never comes to my practices and rarely comes to games. People think it’s because he’s busy, because he’s Donovan Woods, the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans. But the truth is he doesn’t want me playing football. Why wouldn’t a famous quarterback want his kid to follow in the family footsteps? Well, he does. He loves that my brother Mike, a junior in college, plays for the University of Tennessee and led his team to a win at the Sugar Bowl last year. So what the hell is Dad’s problem with my playing ball?

I’m a girl.

FIRST DRAFT:

“Blue forty-two!  Blue forty-two!  Red seventeen!”
The cue is red seventeen.  The center, my best friend JJ, hikes the ball to me.  I catch it effortlessly.  The defense is blitzing.  JJ slams into a freshman safety, knocking him to the ground.  Nice.  The field’s wide open, like an ocean.  Dancing on my tiptoes, I scan the end zone and locate Sam Henry, a wide receiver, and hurl the ball.  I watch it fly through the air, a perfect spiral, heading right where I intended it to go.  He catches the ball, spikes it and does this really stupid dance.  Henry looks like a frickin’ ballerina.  With his thin frame and girly blonde hair, he actually could be the star of the New York Ballet.  I’m gonna give him hell for his dance later.  This is my senior year at Hundred Oaks High, and I’m captain, so I’m allowed to keep my players in line.  Henry has always been a showoff; his shenanigans get us penalties.   
Through the speaker in my helmet, I hear Coach Miller say, “Nice throw.  This is your year, Woods.  You’re going to lead us to the state championship.  I can feel it.  Take five.” 
The coach means: I know you’re not going to blow it in the final seconds of the championship game like you did last year.  And he’s right.  I’m not. 
I grin, pull off my helmet and walk to grab some Gatorade.  Most of the guys are goofing off, watching cheerleading practice going on across the field.  But I ignore them and look up into the stands.  I spot my mom talking to JJ’s dad.  My dad isn’t here, of course.  Lots of parents come to watch our practices because football is the only thing to do around here.  Here being Franklin, Tennessee, next door to the middle of nowhere.  If you think hanging out at practice is lame, forget movies - games are typical Friday night dates for couples. 
My mom always comes to practice.  I think she supports me, but I’m not sure.  Maybe she’s just overprotective and doesn’t want me to get hurt, but I’ve been playing football since Pop Warner days, since I was seven, and the worst thing that’s ever happened was a concussion.  Sophomore year, when JJ took a breather, the coach brought in this idiot to play center.  The idiot didn’t cover me and I got slammed hard.  Otherwise, I’m a rock.  No knee problems to speak of, no broken limbs.  
My dad never comes to my practices, and rarely comes to games.  People think it’s because he’s busy, because he’s Donovan Woods, the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.  But the truth is he doesn’t want me playing football.  You might wonder why a famous quarterback wouldn’t want his kid to follow in the family footsteps and play the great All-American sport.  But he does.  He loves that my brother, Mike, a junior in college, plays for the University of Tennessee, and led his team to win at the Sugar Bowl last year.  So what the hell is my dad’s problem, you ask?
I’m a girl.

8 comments:

L.J. Boldyrev said...

It's not THAT bad! But thank you for sharing this, Miranda! You've renewed my hope for the week.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Wow, well, if you revised that 85 times, it must have just been back and forth! I'd keep reading both versions, though I do think the new opening is better!

Pam Harris said...

Thanks so much for sharing! And you know what? I actually liked your first draft version, too. :) I wish my first drafts could be that well-written!

KAWyle said...

It took the terrific current version to show me how much the good first version could improve. Thanks!

Rachel said...

Wow, I read about this book for the first time earlier this week and now this! I SO Can't wait to get a copy in my hands.

I agree, the first version is really good--it just went from there to polished and stellar :-)

Congrats on everything!!

Miranda Kenneally said...

Thanks you guys! :)

Jacquelyn Wheeler said...

Fantastic! I love the revised version, although I have to say, I'd drop the first paragraph entirely and start with calling the play. You could simply rewrite "JJ hikes me the ball" to "JJ hikes me the football", and hey presto you've established that the story is about football for those who haven't already figured it out. But other than that, this is a very compelling opening sequence, and I can't wait to read SCORE. Kudos to you!

Leanne said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I really get how revision makes things better, even though in the early drafts you think, "I just can't rewrite this AGAIN." Or, in my case, I can tell somethings off, the tempo, flow, dialog, something, but I'm not sure what. I can see between your revisions where you went back and took the time to flesh out some ideas but then tightened up/cut the not so important ones. Thanks again!

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