Boy, the things The Badlings is teaching me. I don’t know what it is about this book. Maybe it will be my watershed moment and I will look upon the chasm cleaved in my life, on one end of it written “before The Badlings,” on another “after The Badlings,” and I will see the middle of it a thousand fiery dragons spurting up pillars of fire to remind me of what it was like. And I’ll tell you what’s it’s like. It’s gruesome. I’m learning one very valuable lesson writing this book.
Most of the story is handed to you in the first draft.
I think I’m paraphrasing Terry Pratchett as he said something along these words and I have read it somewhere and can’t find it now. No matter. It’s true. As shitty and cumbersome and as absolutely detestable your first draft might be, the foundation of the story is there. Your job is to lay it all down, like a groundwork for the future philandering with your story, because no matter what you will add or subtract, the core will stay the same. It doesn’t have to be complex, it can be very simple. In fact, the simpler it is, the better. But here is the catch. If you miss this core, or if you gouge pieces of it out later (I did both), you will suffer in the clutches of ruthless editing as a consequence until you bleed out of your nose.
The same holes you will have in the core of your story at the very beginning will show up like festering sores in all consecutive drafts no matter what you do. I have heard horror stories from writers about how they had to abandon a manuscript because no matter how many times they rewrote it, it was flawed. It was an ugly child born maimed and it could not be cured.