Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Feature Presentation: First Draft vs Final Draft

I thought it might be fun for readers and aspiring authors to get a small taste of the revision process. This is also a test to see if this'll make for interesting, fun content on my website, so please tell me what you think of the idea.

I've taken a piece of the first scene from the first draft of Layover, and the first scene of the final draft and posted them here for you to see how a publishable book gets created. My analysis appears between the two drafts.

First Draft Chapter One, Layover

"If you're gonna wiggle your way over North America, you better not sit on my lap again." Across the aisle of the crew bus, Jack Grayson leveled teasing, blue-raspberry-colored eyes on Kira Allen.

She wrinkled her nose at him, grabbing for her cockpit case when the bus snagged a speed bump and it tumbled off the cracked leatherette seat. "You wish."

Jack reached over and took the case, bracing it safely between spit-polished black shoes. "No, you wish. I can see lust all over your face."

"That's nausea."

Jack laughed.

"I'll tell you what I wish," Kira said. "For peace and quiet. But that's not possible around you." It had never been possible, ever since he'd lived with her family as a teen and grown up to become her best friend. Jack was…Jack. Teasing, flirting, busting chops. He never let up. If Kira didn't love him more than her own brother, he'd have driven her stark raving long ago.

"You knew what you were getting into," he said.

"It's been so pleasant, this past year, with you flying for PanAir and me for Seaboard Express. I don't know what possessed me to change jobs."

"You got bored."

"I cherish boredom."

"You missed me."


"Admit it. You can't fly without me."

Only partly true. Kira could fly without Jack, she just didn't like to. When he'd left Seaboard, all the pizzazz went out of her life. Though the easy schedule there had allowed her to get home by dinnertime every evening, as she'd preferred, it seemed her love of flying was so entangled with her love of Jack, she couldn't be happy without them both. "I needed to be at PanAir to cover for you," she said. By now, other crew were beginning to pay attention. Kira smiled. "They begged me to watch your hind end out of fear for the passengers."

"I take my meds." Jack grinned and brushed lint off the four gold stripes on his black uniform jacket. Peering at her from underneath the lowered brim of his cap, he looked every inch the wolf Kira knew him to be. He never discussed his sex life – one of the few topics he avoided – but she'd heard stories. Too many.

"I don't see them working."

"Look closer."

She did and felt a burst of pride. Classically handsome, strong and with the energy equivalent of a stick of dynamite, he was the kid Guidance Counselors said wouldn't amount to anything. For a while, those words seemed prophetic. But then the Navy found Jack and Jack found flying. The rigorous discipline had worked magic on this man-sized bundle of plutonium. At last he had the outlet he needed, and in Typical Jack Fashion, he'd enticed Kira along for the ride. So here they sat, a Captain and First Officer for PanAir. Unreal.

Now, after six months of professional separation, they were back in the cockpit together, with Kira on the eve of her first transcontinental run.

She'd been due for the change, she reminded herself, having lapsed into a comfort zone that'd grown uncomfortable. Same commuter runs between Logan and JFK, same schedule week in and week out, same passengers and crew. Then Jack had lured her to PanAir with talk of Anchorage, Seattle, Hollywood – with him. And that was an offer too sweet to turn down.

Having him at the helm for her first red-eye calmed her considerably. She'd been cross-country before, but as a passenger, with Jack. Tonight she was flying that bird. Too cool.

"You're landing tomorrow."

Kira bolted out of her reverie. "Huh?" She felt her jaw dangling and slammed it.

"You heard me."

She blinked. "I thought you were landing."

"Changed my mind."

"I never landed after pulling an all-nighter."

"Drink coffee."

"You're a control freak about landing. You'll be watching too closely."

"Okay. I'll ask a passenger to do it."

He might, too. Her leg started shaking. Jack stared at it a moment and glanced back at her.

"You'd think you were a virgin," he said, eyes crinkling.

"I'm in a tizzy. Do you mind?" Normally, she enjoyed landing. Hell, it was the best part. But she was nervous about his reaction, or that she'd be too tired. He knew it, too.

Jack's powerful shoulders lifted the fine cloth of his jacket. "I don't mind a tizzy. Tizzies are good. But the wiggling is distracting."

"Leave me alone."

He winked and turned away, but not for long. She counted to ten and he swiveled towards her again.

"You'll screw up the pre-flight."

There it was. The old, familiar routine. Kira let out a breath. All was right with the world when Jack mocked her. If he'd said don't worry, you'll be fine, she would've figured he had doubts.

"I never screw up the pre-flight. You don't pay attention to the checklist."

"How could I, with you sucking the pen like that?"

"I don't suck the pen."

"You suck the pen."

"I blow it to warm the ink."

Jack groaned and shifted his weight. Long and athletic, his legs stretched across the aisle and brushed against hers. Strange. Her leg fell asleep again. Kira rubbed at the tingling and tossed a look around the crew bus. She recognized a couple of flight attendants from Jack's infamous parties and gave them a wave, but they were eyeing Jack hungrily and barely acknowledged her.


Did you get a sense of what the conflicts and motivations will be? Are the characters multidimensional? Thought not. And notice the setting is all wrong. As a result of the poor setting there's an abundance of telling instead of showing.

Clearly I needed to put these two somewhere else, doing something that would highlight their personalities and conflicts. One of the critical choices an author must make is where to set the scene. The wrong setting can cause a story to sputter and stall or go in circles, as it did above. The right one makes the story snap, crackle and pop.

Believe it or not from the first draft, Jack is a control freak and he has abandonment issues. I decided to plop him in front of the movie "The Runaway Bride" to showcase his issues, and to have him arguing with Kira over her lifestyle choices to show his control freak tendencies. Now Kira can react to him and the reader can see how she needs to prove herself and get out from under the men in her life. Take a look...

Final Draft, Layover, Chapter One

Moral dilemma number one—Is it ever okay to want to boink your best friend?

“See? She’s just like you.” Jack Grayson pointed to the image of the Runaway Bride on the TV screen. “The Queen of Disposable Men.”

“Will you stop calling me that?” Kira Allen shot back.

“You throw men away.” He snapped his fingers. “Like that.”

“I do not.” At least not most of the time. Or some of the time. Except for maybe once. Okay, twice—that she recalled.

And with good reason. Kira had recently raised her standards. While she’d built her career as an airline copilot, she hadn’t minded dating men who were out for a good time. Now, she wanted more. At twenty-eight, she was ready to begin the search for a mate.

“Most of them deserve to be tossed. But still,” Jack continued.

Seated next to him on an orange sofa in her condo, Kira stared straight ahead, and wondered why they always ended up bickering, just like they had as kids. She could blame Jack, but truth be told, she enjoyed the one-upmanship that had colored their relationship forever. “And you’re better?”

According to Pan Air legend, Jack had a revolving door policy when it came to women in general, flight attendants in particular. He never talked about his love life, but Kira’d never seen him hang with anyone for long, except her, and as his best friend, she didn’t count.

Jack shrugged. “We’re not talking about me.”

“Same old, same old,” she muttered. He took the liberty of dissecting her love life at every opportunity. But let her mention his and he clammed up. “Are you afraid for Arlo?” she asked. “Is that it?”

Arlo Jacobs, Quality Assurance Officer and Regular Joe, held current boyfriend status in Kira’s life. She had high hopes for this relationship. Arlo seemed settled, serious and quiet. He’d shown no signs of wanting to control Kira’s world. A far cry from Jack, who was currently making such a pest of himself she wanted to toss him out a window—at thirty-thousand feet.

Except he had his uses.

She hadn’t met any decent men during her tenure as copilot for Seaboard Express—a tiny, commuter airline that made daily ‘milk runs’ up and down the east coast. Except for the rare single businessman and even rarer single pilot, the pickings had been slim enough for her to start to worry. It wasn’t as if she was a party gal with weekly opportunities to date. She preferred the solitude of the beach at night to the thrum of a singles bar or comedy club. Despite her quieter nature, however, she had managed to snag several dates over the years by reluctantly attending Jack’s infamous Pan Air bashes. For a multitude of reasons—namely Jack threatening to peel their dicks like a banana if they misbehaved—those romances never quite worked out.
She sighed.

At least things were looking up. Now she flew for Pan Air International thanks to him. Using his clout as a respected captain, he’d pulled strings, put in a good word. She’d completed the interminable company training course that Arlo helped develop and teach, passed with flying colors and here she was. “You’re the one that enabled me and Arlo. You have only yourself to blame.”

“Don’t remind me.” Jack leaned back on the sofa, scraping his face and running strong fingers through wavy dark hair. “I hate him.”

“No surprises there.” He hated all her boyfriends and didn’t seem to notice the role he played in their departure. What would he care if she disposed of them properly when the time came?

“He’s a dipshit,” Jack said.

Kira rolled her eyes. “He’s nice enough.”

“For what?”

“My purpose.”

“And that would be?”

She couldn’t say for certain. Far too early to tell. Arlo didn’t make her pulse jump like flying did. Or stimulate her mind the way Jack did. But bodies weren’t built to endure that kind of relentless excitement forever. Neither were emotions. Kira had an exciting job so what she needed at home was peace and quiet. At least she thought that’s what she needed. “Marriage,” she taunted.

As expected, Jack displayed the strangulated symptoms of a man having a coronary.

“You can’t marry that jerk. He’s a wingless nerd who makes life miserable for pilots—you included.”

“He’s making sure you’re fit to fly,” she countered mildly. “Keeping the passengers safe.”

“You bought that corporate crap?” Jack spewed. “Pan Air has enough quality control built into the system without wasting profits on dickless wonders with wing envy.”
He had a point but no way would she admit it. To do so would make Arlo seem redundant. Since she was investigating the possibility of a future with him, she didn’t want to go there.

“He sits in the cockpit, clicking his frickin’ mechanical pencil and pushing paper up his corporate ass.”

Kira placed a hand over her mouth to keep from smiling. If she didn’t react, he’d eventually shut up.

Not this time.

He must’ve sensed he wasn’t getting anywhere because he changed tactics. She had to hand it to him. He was quick on his feet.


Now we're getting somewhere! Every line of dialogue gives a snippet of insight into the character. And the tables are turned--she's teasing and taunting him to get a reaction that goes much deeper than the superficial flirting of the first draft and also serves to make you feel as if you're in Jack's head too. The result is an enrichment of those crucial first pages.

I've saved all my first drafts because I enjoy going back to see how the story grew. Some day I'd like to do a workshop on revision--a process I've gotten to know very well over the years. What do you think? Was it good for you ? ;)


Anonymous Jane/FabDame said...

No Comment (frantically fanning self).

November 10, 2006 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Unk said...

It was good for me. LOL.

I used to have WING ENVY.


November 10, 2006 10:08 PM  
Blogger Ann Wesley Hardin said...

Jane--just wait 'til we start analysing love scenes *gg*

But Unk--I bet those flyboys envied your mighty pen ;)

November 11, 2006 6:45 AM  

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