S****y First Drafts — What Ugly Writing Looks Like

We’re in November, and all this talk about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has me thinking about s****y first drafts and why they never get read or published.

For those of you who might not know what NaNo is, it’s where authors use the month of November to bang out 50,000 words of a new story without editing. Then you go back and whip that new baby into shape so it’s more publish-worthy.

Here’s where you may not realize. That published book in your hand? Odds are it’s not even close to the first version of what the author typed up. In fact, it may have gone through five, or ten, or more revisions before it hit the press. And the reason is simple: most first drafts are s****y. Plain and simple.

So for the hell of it, I went through my old files and dug up an older version of Chapter 1 for In This Life, Book 1 of the Past Life Series. Then, for even more giggles, I pulled out the final chapter that was published. Want to see the difference between the two? Read on…

(The start of Chapter 1, drafted in July 2003)

I woke up and didn’t know where I was.

I jerked up in bed with my heart hammering inside my chest and my
breathing sharp and irregular. Nothing registered as familiar but I
knew that danger lurked nearby. The man who attacked me last night
had made it clear he wasn’t done with me yet. When he planned to
return I didn’t know, but I feared for my life and knew my only hope
for survival was to run and find help. Now.

I threw off the quilt and bolted upright. A strong arm snaked around
my waist and yanked me back down, pulling me against a powerful body
I couldn’t fight.

I was trapped.

“Where do you think you’re going?” a deep voice asked.

Memories from the previous night cascaded back. I remembered the
dark, moonlit alcove and the man who had cornered me in it. I
remembered the others who cheered him on and the feel of clothing
wrenched from my body. I remembered the stone wall cutting into my
back and the sound of my screams echoing in my ears. And I
remembered the dispassionate look in his dark brown eyes as he
physically assaulted me.

“Please don’t hurt me,” I said to the man laying next to me, terror
making my throat dry and hoarse. “Just tell me what you want.”

The voice grew husky. “You already know what I want. Roll over. I
want to look at you.”

I wondered if I could escape. If I did, what were the odds of
getting away? Would he hunt me down? Would he draw out the chase?
Could I find help before he caught me?

As if reading my thoughts, his arm tightened around me and flight
became illusion.

“Roll over,” he demanded again.

I had no choice. I knew what he would do to me if I didn’t listen.
I rolled over.

A pair of bright, expressive eyes stared back at me. Eyes the color
of an apatite gemstone, a brilliant hue of golden-green.

But… they were supposed to be dark brown!

“Good morning,” he said, his voice muffled by his pillow.

I looked at David, a man with whom I had an on- and off-again
relationship since graduating college eight years ago, and didn’t
respond. A disconnect existed between my memories from the night
before and reality facing me now, and my brain demanded explanations
for it.

The start of Chapter 1, self-published in 2014 (ELEVEN years later)

When you’ve known someone your entire life, there isn’t a lot they can say or do that can surprise you anymore. So when David entered the bedroom, tea and toast in hand and a determined look on his face, I knew the words that would come out of his mouth before he even said them.

“No, Lottie. You’re not going into work today.” And he watched me with an expression that said he knew what I intended to say, too.

“I’m feeling better.”

“Really?” He sat down on the king–sized bed and placed the food tray in front of me. “Eat this. All of this. Then we’ll talk.”

I smelled hot green tea and fresh toast and, for one brief moment, my stomach reminded me that it was empty before rolling over with nausea again.

He sent me a long look. “I figured as much.”

I shifted in bed and tried again. “I have a meeting with my boss today, David, plus a new client who’s expecting me. I’ve also got four appointments that I can’t walk away from.”

“You have the flu and can get your clients sick.”

Now he stared me down, aiming for intimidation despite the bare feet, blue jeans, and faded T–shirt. And I saw why the men that David commanded feared and respected him. Powerful stature aside, his green eyes had a way of cutting right through you until you felt compelled to obey his every word.

However, I wasn’t one of his men.

I nibbled the toast to prove a point more to me than to David, and my stomach pitched again. David said nothing, probably because he knew better, and I pushed out of bed and headed for the master bathroom. Halfway there, my legs turned rubbery and I knew I’d lost the battle.

Another therapist would have had a field day with my stubbornness.

I leaned against the counter and dropped my head. I felt beaten and fatigued, and uneasiness I’d been experiencing since getting sick prickled at me once again. I couldn’t pinpoint the emotion except to call it restlessness, living in a fog that would eventually lift and reveal something with life–altering clarity that I hadn’t discovered before. It was an irrational sensation and one I attributed to the flu.

“I’m on leave for the next two weeks,” David called out. “Take advantage of that and stay one more day. You know you need the rest and I can take care of you over the weekend until you go back on Monday.”

His taking care of me wasn’t the issue. The love of my life was an ace in the kitchen and a neat freak with an affectionate bedside manner. I simply wanted to get back on my own two feet, and under my own terms and steam. I grabbed a brush from a drawer and worked it through my hair. As I bent over to get the underside, dizziness followed and I held on to the counter until the room settled down. I drew in a breath, straightened and tried one last time with determined optimism. My hands moved up and down, up and down and then once again.

Two hands became three, then four. I felt a gentle tugging at my head and the weight of something heavy settle on top of it. The hands stroked and pampered, moving from my hair to my face and neck. A noise followed, the sound of a lid removed from a bottle, and a rich, spiced scent spread over the room and over me. I inhaled, long and deep, wanting more. Much, much more.

“Does it meet with your pleasure?” someone asked.

I could not answer. The aroma was too intoxicating and reminded me of him. Of us.

The person spoke my name and repeated the question, and still I could not answer. My name was uttered once more.


Hands settled on my shoulders and shook.


The aroma started fading away.

“Lottie, can you hear me?” The scent evaporated and I shook my head to clear the remnants of its evocative memories. David stood just behind, a firm grip on arms. “Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine. I just need a moment.” I saw his worried expression in the mirror and its intensity surprised me. “What’s wrong?”

“Enough of this already.” David steered me from the bathroom back to our bed, tucked me in and made sure I felt comfortable. He stood near me for some time and asked, “What happened in there?”

“A little nausea and another dizzy spell.” I rubbed my forehead, trying to put a name to what I felt. “Maybe I still have a fever, too.”

David touched my forehead, shook his head and sat down beside me. He was studying me now, probing, and trying to see something he didn’t see before.

“You were immobile for almost five minutes,” he said, tucking my hair behind an ear.

“I think you’re exaggerating.”

Five minutes.”

The restlessness I’d been feeling surged through me again, stronger this time, and I didn’t like the way it felt. Something seemed off, and I wasn’t sure if it was with David or with me. Remnants of last night’s sleep started trickling in, and then a connection clicked into place.

“I had a dream last night and I started remembering it in the bathroom.” I closed my eyes, trying to remember more. “I was in a room with a servant who was waiting on me. She was preparing me to meet someone. A boyfriend.” No, that wasn’t quite right. “A lover.”

I felt a tingling uneasiness as I said the word.

“A lover?” David asked.

I opened my eyes, saw David’s grin and recognized the bait for what it was.

I grinned back. “The lover wasn’t you.”


Big difference, eh? And the editing, in my opinion, was thoroughly worth it!


Copyright © 2012-2015 · All Rights Reserved · TerriPonce.com

About terriponce

I write about secrets, suspense, and soulmates.
This entry was posted in Stories Behind The Stories and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to S****y First Drafts — What Ugly Writing Looks Like

  1. Narelle Allen says:

    That was a bravely honest thing to do..

    Narelle Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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