When I return to a first draft – after the obligatory month to 6 weeks – I expect to find an incoherent mess. First drafts feel like that in process, they’re all about getting to the finish line in a novel that seemed visionary to start but ended chaotically. So I’m often pleasantly surprised how not utterly terrible it is. Flawed, undoubtedly; messy structure and ridden with careless grammatical errors – naturally. It is those basic errors only that really stand out on second revision.
So what am I not seeing?
It is somehow being in thrall to an idea that, once faded, is then re-lit. From wading through a dark dense forest to re-entering a seemingly enchanted woods, forgetting just how treacherous it had been.
But there can come a point (there has now on my second revision) when you find yourself lost again, deep in it. At least it is realisation that there are problems, like a sudden reawakening from a dream-state, or the breaking of a spell. Only no longer able to see the forest for the trees. So somehow you need rise above it all, find a vantage point. Well, i’m struggling to find one just now. Usually for me the major oversights only become apparent on the third revision. Sometimes it is only on the fourth rewrite or later that it all becomes clear – the theme, the essence. It might even be that such a revelation is but a false one. They’ve happened before.
Well, neither do you need follow a religion to have faith. But I need to believe it will all work out in the end, regardless of the evidence.
Or maybe I’d better just call it hope.
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