People love to buy crumbling structures that were once houses, and then invest in bringing them up to code and making them houses again. Some people do it so they can live in them. Others do it so they can “flip” the house, and sell it quickly for a nice profit.

“Fixer-upper,” they call them. That’s a tidy term for what in many cases has the subtext of, “This place is a dump, but not quite ready for a wrecking ball. If you’re rich enough you can buy and fix it.”

I’m not rich. I’m a writer, after all. Yet I know fixer-uppers. I’m working on one now, and I don’t mean a house. I mean the first draft of my next novel. (Coming out sometime this year.)

“All first drafts are poor, Ty.” – The collective wisdom of the writing world.

Very true, reply I to said world of writing. But in this case, this draft is beyond mere rough and into lava-oozing-across-the-street terrain. Holes and broken pipes I didn’t even realize were such problems when I went through with a red pen the first time.

I’m talking entire scenes deleted, or even more tedious, scenes put in a different order. Characters that, though not huge, had to be excised almost entirely in order for the narrative to flow in at an acceptable pace. Pages of rough draft that wherein following corrections I myself wrote down in red ink will not suffice; they require a rewrite of the scene from almost scratch.

Yes, indeed, this one is a fixer-upper.

Perhaps all of your drafts are fixer-uppers. Every writer is different. And though I would never lie and claim my first drafts are flawless, I’ve never found the need to do this much rebuilding between the initial “red-inking” and the actual typing of the second draft. I won’t, as a result, be able to release this next novel as early in the year as I usually do.

Yet, much like the “fixer-upper” houses, the story is not ready for the wrecking ball. The arc is there, the world is established, and I know who the characters are. Though slower than I like, the work continues, because the house is still salvageable.

If you find your first few drafts are fixer-uppers, in need of more than just some sharpening and polishing, relax. You’ve still got a lot of lumber and tools to work with to bring about a finished product that far surpasses what you’re looking at now. You can’t improve an empty lot into a house, after all.



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