Today, I finished the first draft of my untitled uplift story. It’s not that remarkable of a story, really. I didn’t pursue any grand ideas and it doesn’t (yet) have any real moments of genius. But, it’s the first story where I’ve finished the rough draft, sat back, and thought, “Yeah, there’s some good stuff here.”
Before I started on Fugitives from Earth, I had spent much of my writing time in the previous months on short stories. Every time, same deal: I’d get really excited, get about three thousand words in, and then the going would get really, really tough. I’d have to remind myself that I didn’t have to write perfectly on the first draft, fix it in the rewrite, blah blah blah.
Not so this time. It’s not outstanding or anything, but this is the first first draft I’ve ever finished, of anything, where I didn’t feel like the story needed major work. It still needs better foreshadowing, better motivations for the characters, and a lot of tuning, but the basics are all firmly in place. And that’s a damned good feeling, especially considering how down I tend to get on myself.
So why is this time different? I can think of a couple of reasons.
- I outlined. Before FfE, I never would’ve considered writing an outline for more than the first couple of scenes at once. I was a discovery writer, so damn the endings, full speed ahead! Turns out, that’s not the best way to write. Knowing what the ending was makes the beginning much smoother, especially for a short story. And having all of the scenes down already meant that I could skip around if I was having trouble. I did that a lot.
- I’m more familiar with what I like to write. I specifically aimed for a low-concept story this time. Nothing ostentatious or groundbreaking, but fun to write and (hopefully) fun to read. May or may not be publishable, but at this point that’s secondary at best.
- I’m much, much more familiar with what makes good conflict. This time, I was conscious from the very beginning that I needed to create characters that clashed. There’s no antagonist in the story (a theme of my works, I’m noticing) but the two main characters spend most of the story in opposition to each other. That’s good times.
So I am learning. They say that you need to write a million unpublishable words before you write your first publishable one. I don’t know if that’s true, but this experience makes me think that I’m at least 10% of the way there. And, frankly, I’m going to enjoy this feeling of self-satisfaction while it lasts.