I remember hearing once that J.K. Rowling went through eleven drafts before she was content with one of her manuscripts of Harry Potter. I must have been in sixth grade at the time, maybe even younger, and I remember thinking how ridiculous that was. Why waste all that time on eleven drafts when you can just get it right in one? I was old enough to know I loved writing stories, and my dreams of being a novelist were already alive and kicking. Twelve-year-old me looked with contempt upon said immensely famous novelist and decided, "When I'm a writer, I'll just do it right the first time."
That aspiration fell flat on its face when The Heir of Ariad first hit the page. By then, I had only one novel-length story under my belt (a mermaid fantasy- how adorably cliché) which I, now older and infinitely wiser, regarded as literary trash. Self-esteem was high. Inspiration was flowing. With minimal planning and zero character connection, I wrote the story of Kyrian of the Rain Realm.
At least, I started to.
Part of the way through I realized it was garbage; I was coming off a Lord of the Rings phase and thought at the time that true writing was the kind penned by twentieth century British scholars. So I rooted out every contraction, idiom, and word that was remotely informal, and rewrote the HoA (or at least, what I had at the time) with a style that I thought would have had Tolkein's stamp of approval. Draft two.
I must have figured out that no child of this generation had any interest in writing like that, because before I got to the end I went back again to edit what I had. Draft 3. And counting.
I had my brother proofreading for me- waiting for each installment as I wrote them. He was on the brink of the climax when I hit another hiccup- I knew I wasn't happy with the story and had a TON of rewriting to do. I finished the draft, never gave him the ending, left him with an admittedly excruciating cliffhanger (mwahaha), and promptly went back to the plot point where everything fell off the rails to rewrite. Funnily enough, there was a brief time that I was happy enough with the story to let my dad read it. Sorry, Dad. Not my best work. (Fun fact: I still won't let him read the final manuscript- not until it's finished for real!)
What followed was a long journey of scrapping and rewriting, piecing together and weeding out and destroying and rebuilding. I started a revision halfway through the story, then had to go back and rewrite the beginning to match, then feather them together into a seamless, continuous plot line... (No, I wouldn't recommend it). By the end, I'd probably gone through five or so drafts. Maybe more. So much for my master plan.
In short, The Heir of Ariad hasn't just been my protagonist's journey, but mine. It's been my first real writing adventure, the first taste of the true writing process, and the first glimpse into the ups and downs of inspiration, frustration, dry spells, hot streaks, successes, failures, and in the end- satisfaction. God has taught me so much through this process, and I don't regret a single, excruciating draft. It's all part of the journey. Every step brought me closer to the end result, and every draft taught me something- even if it was just what NOT to do. It's all valuable, and with every draft, the story got a little bit stronger. I can't say it was all fun, but I can say it was all good.
So, lesson learned. There's no fast lane in fiction.
Now for Book Two....