Not all imperfections add character to a canvas. Some mistakes are simply tears or unpleasant splotches on an otherwise beautiful piece of art. It is the same with the missteps taken in a rough draft of writing. We attempt to paint a picture with words and sometimes find ourselves bumbling through the paragraphs grasping for the exact way we wish to express ourselves.
Jei and I found ourselves in the same position when we decided to take up our manuscript and carry on with what was originally a simple writing exercise. As we reread each page, we found our very own glaring mishaps staring back at us.
As we discussed the pitfalls and issues we ran into, we found that our original approach, with no concrete outline, was mostly to blame. Of course, we already talked about our fix to that in our last post. The other lessons we took from our original rough draft pointed more towards a lack of character and world building. There were three prominent problems with our first draft.
1. The dynamics of the main characters were not discussed ahead of time. Of the largest issues we found, this was the first and worst of our transgressions. We had not taken the time to decide on the nature of the relationship between the two main characters. Because of this, in certain scenes, their interaction would feel forced or disconnected. This taught us to be sure to take the time to sort out the coexistence of our main characters before attempting to throw them into a torrential plot.
2. Minor characters were not given the love they needed. Another problem in our original draft was the lack of information and dedication we gave to some of the minor characters. While the random person on the street was easy enough to write off as a passerby, the more influential people that filled the main characters’ lives were given little heed. Without taking the time to understand their background or purpose, we found that they came across as confusing or disjointed in certain parts of our draft. It was a humbling lesson in being sure to build even our minor characters appropriately.
3. We did not scale our encounters or power of characters accordingly. Like most heroes or heroines, our characters had to encounter villains and obstacles along the way. The problem we ran into when writing out these encounters, was the lack of structure when it came to the power of our enemies versus our heroes. While individually the scenes were written coherently, when we read the story in chronological order, we could see a chaotic pattern of misshapen power scale emerge. Our takeaway from this mistake ended up being the need to understand the creatures or villains of our story just as much as our main characters.
While these oversights have been our biggest obstacles, we have taken these lessons to heart in an effort to perfect our craft.
What kind of problems have you seen with your work in progress or rough drafts? What lessons did you take away from them? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.