I Didn’t Just Waste My Time Writing My First Draft, Did I?


September 20, 2013 by Ifeoma Dennis

I’m rewriting DoT.

Not revising it to take out pesky adverbs or moving body parts or some not-so-major issue. Nope. I’m rewriting the whole thing.

Yup. The whole manuscript I slaved over this last August.

Won’t cry, won’t cry.

DoT’s the second manuscript I’m writing, not the first, so I started writing it on a more confident level than the first.

I had a good story idea I loved (so much I even figured out the query before ever writing it), I had two notebooks that were filled with big picture outlines and chapter-by-chapter outlines, I knew my characters’ pedigrees and all that…but there was a place I fell short. And I didn’t realize it until too late.


Was my problem.

My original manuscript (DOT zero), as you can see from the not-so-aesthetic cut out below, had a three-part kind of structure.

Pay no heed to the unevenness of the two pictures

Don’t mind the unevenness of the two pictures, please 😉


Not that a structure of 3 parts is inherently bad, but it divided my MS into three unequal parts- short first and third parts, and an achingly long middle.

See how long Part 2 was?

See how long Part 2 was?

My middle still built up to a conflict toward the end of it- but it took so long to get there. So much of it ended up feeling like my characters were running around from one part of their fantasy world to another.

Which might not be bad in itself, but it felt so flat to me. And I always know when my stories are not living up to expectation.

Luckily, I came across a four-part structure somewhere on a blog online and once I saw it, I knew that was the way to go. Although I had to cry and lose appetite for a while before accepting it was something I had to do and there was no short-cut around it.

Now my middle is split into two, with the two parts building up to separate conflicts. It’s easier to write this way as I know where I’m heading to exactly. And most importantly, my characters have more purpose, because every part now has a different main conflict they have to tackle, although the overall dramatic and thematic questions remain the same.

Getting my tools ready for the rewrite. I already outlined new chapters and scenes...but still working on the world building.

Getting my tools ready for the rewrite. I already outlined new chapters and scenes…but still working on the world building.

Another thing is this new structure requires changes in almost all parts of the first draft, and that’s the reason I’m scratching it and starting from the start again.

And even though it took me the whole of my summer break to write the first draft, I won’t feel I wasted my time. I learnt something at least. I learnt to plot a better story, and I have a feeling DoT would be much stronger for this. I’m actually excited now to get the words down to Scrivener. But can’t start right away because my schedule is crazy at the moment. However, I’ve plotted it all out so I’m one-tenth on the way to completion 😉

When you love something, you can’t just give it up or toss it out half-baked. You’ve got to give your best to it.

So…you can wish me luck on this second journey with DoT. 🙂


17 thoughts on “I Didn’t Just Waste My Time Writing My First Draft, Did I?

  1. sknicholls says:

    How are you coming along with this. I had to recently scrap a WIP for a few reasons. One, I just learned Scrivener and want to start it there. Two, it needed restarting. The characters just didn’t gel with me, I didn’t like the person or the POV, and finally, the beginning was way too much exposition and not enough action. So here we go. Good luck!

    • I can relate with almost all of that (except I still love my protagonist)!

      You have to start somewhere– maybe with the plotting/outlining?
      I started there too with this second draft.

      It’s better to try solving your problems on a rough sheet before writing the first word.
      So if you don’t like your main character, maybe you can finetune them a bit or tell the story from another character’s point of view.
      As for POV, you just have to decide what’s best for you. I tried my WIP from a first-person POV for a few chapters before switching. It didn’t feel right. So my only advice is go with your guts.

      Scrivener has a tutorial that comes with it (took me two-three days to go through the tutorials) but it’d pay off once you give yourself time to learn it.

      Good luck!

      • sknicholls says:

        I saw the tutorial and thought, “Well, this is going to sit on my computer a while before I get this figured out. Then, through blogging, I got connected with Gwen Hernandez
        at The Edited Life. She is the author of “Scrivener for Dummies”, so I really lucked out. She does 6 week classes a few times a year. I just happened, by chance, to get connected with her the day before a new class started and, WOW, was it awesome. It has really changed the way I approach writing. seriously, I was a linear panster, and she turned me around into an outliner and a plotter. I am loving it. I also love that i can make my own ebooks now. My first one was a book of the lessons from her class, for reference. I am always excited for authors when they find what works for them and wish you the best of luck with your work.

        • Oh nice to hear that! And that you’re a plotter now too. So hopefully you’ll fix your problems!

          I still haven’t fixed my own first chapter…still haven’t written a beginning I want so my second draft is kind of stalled at this point…

  2. Laurie says:

    Have been so inactive on blogs since I started my internship, so I’m only catching up on all this now! You’re doing so well and I’m inspired by your progress! I’m learning similar lessons with my WIP at the moment. But all of these are lessons we need to learn and will ultimately make us better writers! Good luck! 😀

  3. […] I Didn’t Just Waste My Time Writing My First Draft, Did I? (ifeomadennis.wordpress.com) […]

  4. clayanddust says:

    I’m with you, Ifeoma. I’m about to rewrite a story of mine as well, and it is DAUNTING. Can you share the link for the blog article about the four-part structure? I’ll check out Amanda’s recommended website as well.

    Chin up! Our creative pursuits are never a wait, and it is the journey that teaches us 🙂

  5. krystal jane says:

    It’s never a waste of time. 😀 I ended up rewriting my last story because of structural changes I needed to make. It’s only when you finish that you can see it as a whole and know what it is you need to change. It’s great when you figure out what works for you. Stories you love are always worth it. ^_^ Good luck with the rewrite!! 😀 You can do it!

    • Thanks so much Krystal! OMG rewriting your novel must have hurt.
      I felt bad because August is when I have my longest break, but it’s okay, I’ll just have to work things around my schedule.

  6. amandashayne says:

    I’m so proud of you, Ifeoma! It takes a lot to accept that a big change needs to be made. You’re giving this story all you have, and you’re becoming a better writer in the process. I think sometimes when we wish we’d learned something sooner, we overlook the fact that it might have come at just the right time. Maybe you NEEDED to write DoT the way that you did in order for a host of other things to happen. Okay, I’m done philosophizing now. 😉

    All that said, have you heard of Larry Brooks? I’m a huge believer in the four-part story structure he talks about in his books on writing. I sometimes resist pushing it on people because I know everyone is different, but his books (Story Engineering and Story Physics) were IMMENSELY helpful for me. Actually, every part of Story Engineering is on his website, storyfix.com, for free. He basically just organized it into a book.

    I’m off to read your email now. I just had to stop by to comment on this! ❤

    • It’s a good philosophy, Amanda and I needed to hear that. Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

      I’ll check out storyfix.com soon, thanks for that!…I also bought K. M Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel, although I haven’t had time to read that. But must read all of them before starting my rewrite. 😉

      And thank you for stopping by! ❤

  7. Ify, I think you needed to cry this one out (I would), but now that you have it out of your system, just know that NO writing is a waste. It’s like in the world of painting, the experts say you should paint as much as possible. Don’t worry about the quality of the art; that will follow. Same for the world of writing. Even unpublishable writing leads to brilliant ideas. Just think of your first DoT as a free write–this awesome brainstorming session you did to get to what will ultimately be your final awesome product.

    On a side-note, I saw myself listed as one of your CPs below and felt nearly giddy seeing my name there!

    Good luck on draft 2 of DoT–I’m here, cheering you on!

    • Thank you so much, Jodi. ❤ Feels good having you as a cheerleader 😉
      It feels better thinking of it with that analogy, plus it’s true. Brainstorming for my second draft gave me even more brilliant ideas.

      😀 Oh I'm the one who's light-headed to have you as my CP! You're a great writer and a nice person and a supportive DoT sister all rolled in one! 😀

      Much, much love!

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"Dreams can get you through anything."

-Cat York


Topics I Blog About

Writing progress


First Draft:

93210 / 90000 words. 104% done!

Second Draft:

40482 / 90000 words. 45% done!

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