It’s November. And I’ve set myself the target of finishing the first draft of ‘A Good Place‘ by the end of the month.
What is a first draft? No one seems to agree with anyone else on this one. And my use of the term here is a little different to most of the definitions I have come across.
A hill station in Northern India photographed by my father during WWII. How is this relevant? read on…
Ideas of what constitutes a first draft seem to vary from, at one end, a sketch of the story arc with most of the characters written in, a mixture of great and awful writing, plot holes and loads of inconsistencies to, at the other end, the story pretty much as the author imagines it, but with minor inconsistencies to iron out, prose to polish and some information dump to delete.
I imagine that any single writer’s idea of a first draft will depend upon what type of writer they are. Being a pantser myself, i.e. NOT beginning with a carefully planned storyline and characters, but making it up as I go along, I think the first draft has to be closer to the finished article than if I were a plotter. This is because it is a little harder to see when I have reached that destination.
So my personal idea of a first draft is the book written from beginning to end, no obvious plot holes, no gaps, and nothing I think is glaringly wrong.
When I come back to revise, plot holes will reveal themselves, and I’ll deal with them then. What I shouldn’t be doing is coming back to a work with a huge gap where I found it too bothersome to write the dialogue in the first place.
So it’s mainly dialogue I’ll be working on. There are two scenes which need a lot of work on them still, and quite a lot of smaller gaps in the final third of the book. The draft currently weighs in at about 85,000 words, which is almost twice the length of Making Friends with the Crocodile, and feels to me to be the right length for the story.
It’s taken quite a while to get here. I know it’s generally accepted that the second novel usually has a far more difficult birth than the first, but the storyline has changed tremendously over the couple of years I have been working on it, and has become something I had not foreseen at all.
I’m not quite there yet, though.
And what is A Good Place about?
I’m so glad you asked.
It is 1988, and an Englishman arrives at a small hill station in Northern India. At first he appears to be no more than just another tourist, but gradually we learn he lived in the town as a child, during the time of Partition. A couple of years later his family moved back to England in a hurry, and he suspects it might have been due to some dark or ignoble reason and has decided to do a little research.
The human landscape of the story is the mixture of characters living there, the good and the bad, the well-off and the poor, the weird and the apparently normal, especially the English left behind after Partition. It also happens to be the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the town by the English, and amidst the planned celebrations there are predictable feelings and tensions over this.
And the main character’s private life is a bit of a mess…