That first draft

Guest blog by Kevin Klehr

At any one time, I have three works in progress in my laptop, all at various stages of development. I’ll finish a draft of one book, then set it aside for three months as I edit and rework the second. Then that one gets set aside while I revise the third. After that, I go back to the first and the cycle begins again. When a particular manuscript needs minimal correction, I know it’s ready to submit to my publisher.

At the moment, I’m completing the first draft of a contemporary story set in the 90s, while the sequel to my dystopian novel, Social Media Central, is waiting patiently in my hard drive for its next rewrite. I also have a new Urban Fantasy/Magic Realism book which will be released later this year. I began writing it three years ago and was releaved when it was finally ready for submission.

I have a decent sized back catalogue, so when I think back to the first draft of my first novel, I cringe. Back then, nothing from the initial draft was used in the second draft. Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

My assessor made me aware I had too many characters, and my protagonists were not protagonists at all. They were passive observers to the drama unfolding around them.

Over the years I’ve become a hybrid plotter/panster. Earlier today I was working on my unfinished contemporary novel, and while checking my outline, I instinctively knew I had to deviate from it.

The scene involved the Sleaze Ball, a vibrant queer Sydney dance party which was held yearly back in the 1980s, 90s and noughties. Depending on the year, attendance was between 5000 to 9000 ravers. All my characters are there, but one made a decision he’s not supposed to make for another few chapters.

Through experience, I knew dragging out his decision would annoy readers. My author instinct told me so. An instinct born from over a decade of writing, and from understanding how readers perceive my work by reading my reviews. And, of course, from consuming the books of other authors thus learning from my own reader’s perspective.

So, this long winded jabber is just to tell you that I’m finally at a stage where I can create a more polished first draft.

Of course, a first draft is never perfect. It’s where your ideas are finally on paper, and when you revisit your manuscript again months later, you see all its faults. But with time, you start identifying some of those faults while still working on the initial draft. Which means there’s less to revise later.

I’m already jotting notes for additional scenes, further plot twists, and character development to include in the next rewrite of my book set in the 90s, even though I haven’t finished the first draft. It’s nearly complete, but my mind is already revising it. The story needs more conflict and more comedy.

My debut novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, gave me all the self-doubt every new author understands. The manuscript got worked and reworked eight times, and that was before my assigned editor instigated three months of rewrites. At the time I thought her changes would ruin the story, but when I read it back to myself after all changes were made, I worshipped that editor and every editor since.

So, don’t give up. Every novel you write makes you a better writer. And trust me, every first draft you churn out will be better than your last.

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Kevin Klehr (he/him) author photo of kevin klehrpens tall tales of mystical ocean voyages, of actors and angels in the Afterlife, and of a dystopian city addicted to social media. His first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, spawned a secondary character named Guy.

Many readers argue that Guy, the insecure gay angel, is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. His popularity surprised the author, so much so, Guy had to be added to the almost completed sequel.

The third in this series, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, scored a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.

So, with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin continues to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers. Visit his Website here.

Catch Kevin reading from his contemporary works (Reading A3) and from his Romance novella (Reading A4), and will be a panellist for the ‘There’s Got to be a Better Way: The Writing Process from start to finish’ session (Panel B6)

Check out the full schedule HERE.