I expose myself

Given that it’s now late February and Magic Lessons is available in a corrected and cheaper paperback edition in the US of A, and Magic’s Child is a mere month away from pubbing,1 I thought I would celebrate by posting the very first draft of the first two and a bit chapters of Magic or Madness:

Chapter One

Reason missed her mother. She lay on her new bed in her new home missing her mum, Sarafina, so much it hurt. It was her first day in her grandmother’s house. She should get up, explore, do things, but all she could think about was how much she missed her mother.

Compare and contrast with what wound up in the final version of Magic or Madness many, many, many, many rewrites later:

Chapter One: Reason Cansino

My name is Reason Cansino. I was named Reason because my mother, Sarafina, thought it was prettier than Logic or Rationality or Intellect and had better nicknames, too. Not that Sarafina has ever called me anything but Reason. My mother believes in all those things: logic, reason, and the rest, and in mathematics, which fortunately wasn’t on the list of possible names. I’m grateful to have a head full of numbers, but I wouldn’t want to answer to the name of Algebra, Trigonometry, or Calculus.

I have mentioned before that my first drafts are really bad. Now you have proof!

“Reason missed her mum.” Has there ever been a less dynamic first sentence? Or first paragraph? “I miss my mum and instead of doing anything I’m going to whinge.” I’d keep reading that. Not!

I hope this encourages you in your own writing endeavours. The first draft ain’t nothing but the very roughest of beginnings. It exists only to be enbiggened and embettered.

Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have posted the first draft after all?

Justine backs away slowly from the computer.

These are not the droids you’re looking for!

  1. Two months if you are in Australia or New Zealand. Many more months if you’re looking to score a copy in a language other than English. []


  1. Sherwood Smith on #

    It’s so interesting to see the two. The kernal of the story is there; though that first version is not dynamic, I would keep reading. In other words, the talent—the diamond—is there: Missing her mom is a potential facet catching my eye; a girl named Reason is another. But the polished version coruscates from the very first sentence.

  2. maureen on #

    The final version of the book starts with Reason’s POV, and then shifts throughout the story. When did you make the change? (I ask as someone who just wrote an entire 1st draft in 3rd, but am thinking about altering that.)

  3. Justine on #

    Sherwood: It’s amazing how flat that first version is, isn’t it? Nice to hear there was something that kept you reading . . .

    Maureen: One of the motivations for switching Reason’s pov to first person rather than third was the flatness of the early version. Once I switched to first Reason came alive for me. And when I’d done that I got curious about what Tom was like. So I jumped into his head and voila! the chapter where he’s introduced became much more vibrant too.

    It never ceases to amaze me how very different a book is if you switch pov or what person it’s written in.

    What’s your reason for wanting to switch from third?

  4. marrije on #

    maaaate! that improved a lot (though like sherwood I would have kept reading the first bit, too, I expect). it’s also interesting that reason sounds much older in the second version. thanks for posting that, it convinces me that rewrites are good.

  5. Rebecca on #

    oooooh, cool! as soon as i am not at work, i shall read more. it really is very different, but not as bad as you make it sound. 😉

  6. Anonymous on #

    its boring! i didnt know you could wirte boring!

  7. Justine on #

    Marrije: thanks for posting that, it convinces me that rewrites are good.

    Hell, yes! My whole point was not just to humiliate myself, but to show how much work goes into a final draft.

    Rebecca: It’s very bad to have an opening chapter that doesn’t sing. Why would anyone keep reading?

    Anonymous: It is boring. Nothing really happens. She just whinges a lot. That’s one of the many reasons I rewrote it.

  8. Catherine Morris on #

    I love it. I’m so glad you posted those. What a good mini-lesson! Thanks!

    And congrats on all the recent and upcoming releases. Very exciting.

  9. Rebecca on #

    yeah, i know, but i didn’t think it was totally devoid of singing. i read a couple of chapters already. i was a bit perturbed about how well reason was getting on with esmeralda at first.

  10. Justine on #

    Catherine Morris: Thank you! I’m so pleased my humiliation is serving it’s purpose!

    Rebecca: And that was another mistake. No tension! No conflict! Esmeralda became much more interesting in the final version.

  11. Meghan on #

    Wow, what a difference. I mean, the first one is totally, you know, fine, but that’s almost part of what’s cool about it — the switch from “acceptable” to “good.” I hate when things turn out “acceptable” when I was going for “good” so this makes me feel better! 😉

  12. Ben Payne on #

    I actually like the original version. I’d keep reading.

    The second version’s more mind-catchy though…

  13. Little Willow on #

    I think Reason’s story has only benefitted from her first person POV. Cheers.

  14. Delia on #

    Thank you so much for posting that. I’m in the throes of Volume the Second, and it stinks to high heaven. I haven’t got the voice, I haven’t got the pacing. But I will. And you’ve just reminded me of that.

  15. gwenda on #

    Word, chica. I find the contrast very comforting and familiar.

  16. Salokin on #

    *monotone* These are not the droid we’re looking for.

  17. Nicole on #

    I know in some ways it is obvious, but it was really useful to see that kind of “stuff happens, getting the ideas across” become well worded and pretty.

    It makes me feel better about ‘just writing’ in between calls at work, with the intention of making it flow nicely later.

  18. PixelFish on #

    The pubbed version is so much better.

    Thanks for posting that. I’m slogging through a draft revision, and hating my first draft for the messed-up, flawed work that it is—poor draft! I made it that way. Anyway, this makes me less wibbly over the polishing and refinement process.

  19. Allen on #

    this blog is so inspirational ;_;

  20. David Moles on #

    When they wouldn’t let you call it Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi! you should have plumped for Magic or Whinging.

  21. Nicky on #

    Justine, thank you. It is wonderful to see. Regardless of whether it’s good, bad, indifferent etc. I find it easier to imagine all other art forms (like singing/music/good acting for example) requiring the equivalent of rewrites. In writing it is so much harder to see the process. I always liken a ‘book’ as a snapshot of a work – like one night’s performance. Except a book is caught for all time (unless the author does a ‘director’s cut’ edition). (Singers have to live with CD’s).

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