When Your Rough Draft Is Really Rough

When Your Rough Draft is Really Rough

The Truth About My Rough Draft

Friday night, I wrote 3,560 words and finished my second book. The book is done at 85,600 words. And it’s shit.

  • I have place holder names for about 35 characters –from Alice to Zed (why do I even need that many named background characters?)
  • I have stupid tactics and plot holes a mile wide.
  • I have dropped side plots and disappearing-reappearing characters.
  • It’s right around my target word count–but I’m used to cutting 1/3rd of my story to tighten up my babbling writing. There’s nowhere to cut
  • My denouement – that falling action after the climax of the book? Mine’s maybe 200 words. That’s gonna need work.

I had to finish the book though. Book 1 is with an editor and the best thing for me was to wrap it up before I got lost in the rounds of revision, so I pushed hard and got it done. Having it done didn’t stop me from feeling embarrassed about the state of the draft, though.

I was talking to my sister, (also known as my alpha-reader, the best way for “me” to read what I’ve written without being the one to have written it), on Tuesday about ongoing discussions with my editor over my artistic vision. My lovely sister was cheering me up by complimenting my writing and letting me know how much better I’ve gotten over the years she’s been reading drafts of book 1.20170124_1830121

Reluctantly, I tell her that’s because she hasn’t seen the nightmare that is book 2.

You know what my sister says? Exactly what I needed to hear today.

“It’s a process, not an assembly line.”

She says I just need to clean it up for a month or so and it’ll be fine.

Writing is an Art

When my sister reminded me that writing is a process, not just a formula, I remembered exactly why I count my rough draft as I do.

I start off numbering my Rough Draft as ‘Draft #0’. My rough draft doesn’t even count as an integer – it’s not “a thing complete within itself”.

My first step is to turn that spew of words into something coherent and legible, before I can even think about plot revisions.

Most books on writing and many authors out there agree–rough drafts are shitty. They’re the necessary evil you’ve got to get out on paper so you can find the REAL story and discover what you were actually trying to say all along. Sure, there are those authors who crank out saleable first drafts that only need a bit of copy-editing, but those authors are few and far between.

I now know that expecting my second book to be better than the rough draft of my first book was a vain hope.

The writers and writing books agree, every book is different and requires different things of you.

I can only hope that the lessons I’ve learned on book 1 make polishing book 2 into something I’m proud to share a faster process.

I’m not counting on it, there are so many writing mistakes out there I’ve yet to make.

Count Your Successes

And this I when I remember that my rough draft of book 1 took me 3 false starts and 10 months to write. This one took me 1 false start and 2.5 months to write.

I set a goal to write 10,000 words on that story before the 25th and I beat that by 5 days.

I set a goal to finish that rough draft by March. It’s pretty clear that goal was reached.

I was going to write a big “100th Post!” thing, but then my 100th post ended up being my announcement of finishing my 2nd book. I think that’s a better post than anything I could have written. This is 101st. 🙂

Maybe I am making progress.

How To Set Goals, Meet Them, and Make New Friends

2016 Retrospective

2016 has been a long year–full of ups and downs and the unexpected. We’ve lost celebrities and loved ones, health issues have plagued friends and family, politics seems crazier than usual.

On my blog though, I’m just going to focus on my writing.

Here I can pretend it’s a bright and shiny world. I may not have ended my year with a signed agent, but I blew away all of the goals I set.


My Writing Goals This Year

I made sure to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound) goals. Here are the very pleasing results.

checkbox-tick-md Finish 3rd re-write by March. I finished early! On January 26th.
checkbox-tick-md Send to Beta Reader(s) as soon as re-write is finished. Success.
checkbox-tick-md With feedback, finish next rewrite before July. Early again! I finished the 3rd round of re-writes on June 9th.
checkbox-tick-md After final rewrite, send to at least 3 publishers/agents. I’ve submitted to 7 agents. Check out this chart!


checkbox-tick-md Win NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in November). Intimidating success! I wrote 75,076 words. (Since then, the only thing I’ve written is blog posts and that short vignette. Although, not working on my main stories may explain why I actually wrote a vignette…)
checkbox-tick-md Make a blog post at least twice a month. With this being my 62nd post, I’ve got more than once a week on average. Another outrageous success.


My Top 10 Posts of 2016

For my newcomers and/or people looking for reading material/favorites from this year, here’s my top posts of the year.

My Top 3 Posts of 2015

You’re probably a new follower this year. I mean, I just showed you my stats. So, for all you new followers who probably missed them, I wanted to share my best posts of last year with you.

My 3 Most Under-Rated Posts:

Some posts do well because of day of the week, or you just joined a new group so everyone’s popping over to say hi. And some posts inexplicably seem to be ignored.

This next list is completely my opinion, there are no stats to back up my selections, but here you go.

Social Media Stats

Following advice I saw Jane Friedman’s blog, I went ahead and joined a few more social medias. I thought I was just reserving the names, but1 I got a bit carried away.

The goal I dared not list was my social media goals. I had no clue where to set my goals for those. But I wanted to reach out and find new readers, to find writers to connect with.

With the help of joining the #PitchWars community in July and Raimey Gallant’s NaNoWriMo bloghop in December, my tiny little blog has found an amazing audience of writers who are right with me on this crazy journey.

I like stats and tracking progress, so here are my numbers for 2016.

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgb    WordPress

  • I started this blog in April of 2015.
  • I posted 62 times this year.
  • I have 186 new followers.

WordPress is happy to help you calculate growth and stats, so here are my stats from this year, compared to last year.


Other Social Medias

  • twitter-square-logo Twitter – MorganHzlwood
    • I joined in March
    • I posted 3,157 times this year
    • As of today, I have 1,775 followers
  • tumblr-logo_318-41096 Tumblr – MorganHazelwood
    • I joined in June
    • I posted 135 times this year2
    • As of today, I have 57 followers
  • glyph-logo_may2016_200 Instagram – MorganHazelwood
    • I joined last year
    • I posted 157 times this year
    • As of today, I have 295 followers
  •  pinterest-logo-circle_318-40721 Pinterest – MorganHazelwoo
    • I joined last year
    • I pinned 59 things. Not sure how many this year
    • As of today, I have 88 followers
  • facebook-fanpages-logo Facebook Pages – MorganHazelwoodPage
    • I started the page last year.
    • I probably shared about as much as my Tumblr. (There was some issue with cross-posting not happening for a while, but that’s fixed.)
    • As of today, I have 88 followers. (Hopefully, blog-hopping will increase that number)
  • facebook-logo_318-49940 Facebook – MorganSHazelwood
    • I opened the account in 2013.
    • I posted probably around 1,562 times this year (counted 6 months and doubled).
    • As of today, I have 375 friends. (255 new ones! Welcome <3)
  • google_plus_alt-2-128 Google+ – Morgan S Hazelwood
    • I opened the account in 2013
    • (My cross-posts of my blog were sadly marked private for a bunch of them, so fewer than my FB fan page or Tumblr.)
    • As of today, I have 55 friends (35 new ones! Welcome!)
  • 15dd0e_983b7450c2c94e1db859367a3d0b3319 GoodReads – Morgan Hazelwood
    • I opened the account in January 2016
    • My bookshelf holds 256 books, w/3 to-be-read
    • As of today, I have 512 friends.
    • 4 reviews and 252 ratings.

How well did you do on your goals? Have you given up on them, or do you think you might do better with concrete, SMART goals?

1 – Just as my blog started off as an author landing page
2-  Admittedly, it’s mostly reblogs from here and my Instagram, for followers who prefer tumblr

Craft versus Professionalism

Writing: The Craft Versus The Profession

Guess who wrote 75,089 words in 30 days? Was it Morgan? Yes it was!

I was chatting with Keith DeCandido, a writer friend of mine, about how excited I was about my word count, but how I knew it needed ridiculous amounts of work to be readable and he told me this:

“NaNo isn’t about craft, it’s about professionalism.”

And he’s right.

NaNoWriMo is all about turning this dream, this hobby, into a daily chore. It’s all about BIC – butt in chair. You’ve got to put in the time if you want to see your writing turn into a polished gem (or a fun romp).

This November, I managed to turn up my pace.

I prioritized my writing over almost everything else.

I squeezed out an average of 2,500 words every day before bedtime. The story’s not done, but it’s close. Plus, now I know how fast I can write when I stay focused.

I still can’t sprint, I can’t crank out dozens of pages a day, but I can marathon at a faster pace than I thought.



Morgan finishing her last day of NaNo. Sitting at her desk.

3 Things That Helped Me Win NaNoWriMo (Early!)

Since Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US, my weekly blogpost is going up today.

On Sunday, November 20, 2016, around 11pm, I ‘won’ NaNoWriMo.

I finished writing 50,00o words (+176) to my gDoc document. With 10 days left in November, my ~200 pledged pages are done. 

How Did I Write 50,000 words in 20 Days?

1) Set A Realistic Goal

I have never written more than about 3,000 words in a day. Never.

The ONLY time I have ever done more than 20,000 words (~80 pages) in a month was the time I won NaNoWriMo2013.

So, pledging to write this year, I looked at my word count history and tried to calculate what was feasible for me. (If you’ve never tried writing on a schedule before, you might set a lower number.)

The goal for NaNo amounts to 1,667 words per day. Doubling that just isn’t something that my writing history showed me doing. But, rounding off just under another 1,000? Just maybe. I had done that for a few days in ’13, trying to play catch up.

2) Watch the metrics

When I’m writing, I measure my word count every day. I like to see my stats and find it encouraging. I’ve mentioned before that I’m competitive and don’t want to let myself down.

And you read that part above where I said I’ve never written more than 3,000 words in a day? That meant I had to write EVERY day. I might fall 500 words short or so, but if I let myself slip, I knew that there was no way I would finish.

3) Know If You’re In The Right Place

Did you see the part where I didn’t win NaNo in 2014 or 2015?

I started this book in 2014, but then started getting feedback for my first book after about a week or so and got distracted. I wrote about 20,000 words, but since my current book is a sequel and I had to rewrite the ending to the first book, I found it better to start out fresh.

Last November, I didn’t even try to write. I was 1 month into my first new job in a decade, I attended PhilCon, I hosted a large family Thanksgiving, and 2 days later moved out, signaling the end of a long term relationship. Emotionally, I wasn’t able to create.

You know what I did?

I edited my first book, again. My draft had stalled out and I took the impetus of NaNoWriMo to rededicate my spare time and get through my next round of edits. It was mostly line edits and clean up, but it needed doing before I could get into the drafting and see what really needed revising.

This year?

I was hoping for 20,000 words, planning for 50,000, and dreaming about 75,000.

I purposely kept my calendar light and I’m pretty sure my gym shoes are dusty.

When I managed to hit my stretch goal of 2,500 words the first three days, I took heart and realized I was in a good writing place right now. I’ve been barreling past research issues, putting brackets for me to come back to plot holes and just pushed forward.

My Next Step

Here’s to hoping I’m not celebrating too early and can keep up my motivation now that I’m past the official goal post.

It helps that I’ve still got 2 badges left to win: Update my word count 30 days in a row and pledge to revise.

That’s my plan.

Morgan, dressed in a grey hoodie and black leather jacket stands on a walking trail with trees and a ground covered in leaves behind her.

A near-victory lap around the lake.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Winner!

50,176!  Still on track for my personal goal of 75,000 by the end of November.


(The first book is 89,000, so I’ll be closer to having a finished story by then)