I’m going to post three versions of chapter 2 from my romance novel this weekend.
- The raw first draft (included below)
- Then next, the beefed-up second draft I took to my writing critique group
- Then finally, the tweaked version after critique group
I already hear my writing students whine, “But Demi, you told us never to revise until we finish the first draft of the whole story.”
Well, my dears… sometimes ya gotta break the rules, no matter whose they are!
If you’re masochistic enough to analyze all three, you’ll notice the first draft is dialogue-heavy. It’s hard enough to make myself sit down and write anything at all… so I focused first on establishing a starting point, and that was dialogue.
The second draft (revised after several weeks away from the first) is where you’ll find all the niceties like dialogue attributions, setting details, more refined body language, and at least the semblance of a story I might want to do something with besides light it on fire.
The third draft packs the most punch, and I hope Stefanie becomes a heroine you can really start to root for. She’s haughty and neurotic… but ultimately fragile.
Chapter 2 – first draft
“How far did you travel, girls?” Stefanie accepted the DVD and signed its case without breaking eye contact.
When none of the twittering groupies would speak, the teacher cleared her throat and said, “About an hour. You were all they’ve talked about for weeks. Mainly they’re jealous of how supportive your parents have been of your love of music.” The teacher’s eyes caught those Anne’s eyes and her head dipped in appreciation. A distant smile passed her face. “It couldn’t have been easy to relocate when the whol when you were accepted at Juilliard at the such a tender age.”
Stefanie realized she’d been holding her breath. She could handle the mundane compliments, the faint praise of amateurs who wondered “what if?” They always saw a bit of themselves in her. Except for the part where they ran outside to play with friends while she practiced an average of six hours each day.
“Yes, of course. My mother has sacrificed everything made it a point to always be here to help.”
Stefanie look was surprised when the teacher offered her score of the Mozart Concerto in D for an autograph, instead of the usual picture, poster, or recording. Flustered, she ldropped her eyes without noticing the slow exhale of and exchange of glances between the grown women.
Anne shook her head slightly in disbelief. “Did you have any musical children of your own?” she asked the teacher.
“Only Sadly my husband and I were never able. But I have my girls, don’t I?” she answered as a tall brunette stepped in close and put a supportive arm behind her. “But so often music is not viewed as anything above a important, and when time or money is tight, lessons are the first thing to go.” The brunette laid her head on the teacher’s shoulder and as a tear fell escaped.
Stefanie handed the sheet music back to the teacher, who passed it immediately to the tall teary-eyed girl. They turned to walk away, but Anne and Stef could hear the opening words… “You’ll study this piece on your own, and we’ll still meet once a month after school.”
“Well that’s it for tonight, mom. Can you finish packing the crate? I’m beat.”
Anne pulled a large wheeled bag from under the draped table, but stopped without opening it. “We need to talk, Steffi.” Her voice
This wasn’t part of the script. It was the voice that preceeded a lecture.
“What?” Stef pounced. “The conductor’s an ass. I did my part.” Noticing how her voice echoed in the marble foyer, she dropped to a whisper. “Thank God I practiced the way Mr. E. always taught. Prepared for anything.”
“It’s not that the conductor,” she Anne exhaled. “He’s a little weasel who’ll will get what’s coming to him.” No She reached down to the zipper she’d previously abandoned, measuring each word carefully. “No, it’s Mr. E. I couldn’t tell you earlier.”
“Tell me what? Did he call? Because you know I hate it when you screen my pre-show calls. I’m not 12 anymore.”
“You shouldn’t let those things distract you. I’m here to make sure nothing gets in your way.”
“In my way? Mom, you’re in my way. It was cute when I was flying cross-country touring sweet-sixteen concerts, but honestly it’s a little old now. Like, maybe I could get a date or something if you weren’t always dragging me back to the room after every show.”
“Sweetheart, I need you to calm down. I couldn’t tell you before the show. Your contract is iron-clad, and these appearances don’t pay as well or come along as often as they used to.”
“Oh, get over yourself. We I’d rather not have the ‘it’s-time-to-settle-down-and-teach-for-a-living’ talk in this lobby. You must be getting desperate to drop the appearances.”
“Why, you… is it so much to ask that you give me a little bit of respect for all that I gave up for you?”
“Sure, let’s just play pretend that you’d rather have stayed in teaching evening writing classes in the community college instead of living the jet-setter life.”
“Stavroula Marie Petros! You I’m trying to tell you Mr. E. about your the only person you’ve every truly cared for besides yourself, and all you can do is be hurtful.”
“What did Mr. E. have to say? Is he not able to pick me up at the airport when we get to Boston? I can’t wait to go see his band play at the Greek Festival on Saturday!”
“Steffi,” Anne’s voice softened. “Mr. Eugenides was in an accident yesterday. Drunk driver hit him when he left the rehearsal at the tavern reception hall.”
“Oh my God, mom!” Stef reached for her cell phone. She had pulled up the flight information. “We could catch the last flight out tonight change our tickets. There’s a 10pm flight a if we can get a taxi now.”
“That won’t do any good.”
“Well, I can’t bear to think of him laying there alone in the hospital. He doesn’t have any family here, mama. You know that.”
Anne grabbed Stefi’s wrist as she reached for to dump CDs into the case haphazardly.
“It’s too late.”
“A Matinee concert, mom. It’s only five o’clock. There’s a couple flights if we miss the first one.”
“I mean there’s nothing you can do. He’s dead, Stef.”
Mouth jaw hanging, she buckled and at the midsection and used her right arm to catch herself weight. The Prada heel gave way and Stefanie dropped awkwardly, grazing her cheek on the table’s edge and landing on an outward turned hip.
“No!” she screamed.
“There’s nothing you could’ve done. It was Your father said he died instantly.”
“Dad knew? And he didn’t call me? When did you find out? When did you find out?”
“When you were at the donor luncheon. This is the first chance we’ve had to be alone.”
“At lunch? You found out at lunch, and you’re just telling me now that Mr. E. died yesterday?”
She Stefanie looked like a parody of herself, tangled limbs and hair, one shoeless two feet away foot sheathed in tan stockings whose left garter shown inside the dress’s deep slit, eye makeup smudged as by hands that finger tips thumb and middle finger nervously rubbing eyelids in disbelief.
“I don’t believe you. You obviously don’t care about me at all!”
“Stef, you’re not thinking clearly. I knew you’d be upset. You can’t seriously believe you’d want to play a conc perform just an hour after finding this out, can you? I had your best interests in mind. You can’t afford to renig on a gig. Even one in this shit-hole.”
“Give me the room key, mother.” Stef stuck thrust her palm upward in a and glared defiantly. “I want need a change of clothes and the first flight to Boston. You can be on it, or not. I don’t care honestly don’t care.”
Lessons learned: it’s always painful to share your work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s rough or polished-perfect… we all yearn for acceptance and praise. We want to improve, but we loathe and fear critique. But if we ever want an audience for our books, it starts with finding your first reader.
The path to great writing is not fast. It begins with a rough draft. And it usually looks worse before it gets better!
Hope you find at least a tiny bud of inspiration for YOUR writing process, as you sift through the chaos of mine. I’m glad to have you with me on this journey!
“Kalokairi” – a Greek summer’s romantic lessons on life, music, and the beauty of imperfection. Missed the intro to this project? Check it out here: TheScariestChapter
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This first draft holds diamonds of tension in it if only to mine through the coal of dialogue. I love the dynamic of mother-daughter push-pull and want to feel Steffanie’s devastation. I can’t wait for the revisions to see the master carve through the rough draft.