Thursday, January 31, 2013

First Draft, First Words

I found this particular graphic online, and I couldn't help but laugh about how true it is. Most of the writers I know love the writing process, but dislike the necessary editing after the initial draft is completed. But this graphic shows, in hilarious fashion, just how vital and necessary editing is once a first draft is complete. For this pie chart, the fact that approximately 55% is probably salvageable (5% gold + 40% not entirely hopeless + 10% is the wrong place) is probably about right.

The funny thing is, it's true for most professional writers just as much as it is for the novice. To illustrate my point, check out this link off of Brandon Sanderson's website, where you compare the 1st draft of his novel Warbreaker to the final published version all in one document. This should give any aspiring writer hope. Your first draft doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even need to be great. It just needs to get finished!

So in the spirit of clunky, mistaken-ridden first drafts, I want to share with you, my readers, the very first scene I wrote in my current work in progress. At this point I know for sure that this scene will not make it into my final version, although elements of it have been incorporated elsewhere. In any case, read it, laugh at it, and post some comments below on what you think. Enjoy!


The castle burned in the starless night, giving off neither heat nor light. Flames danced along its crumbling walls and jagged towers like a phosphorous glow, illuminating stone and wood blackened by fire but not consumed. No evidence of life was visible, neither along the ruined battlements nor within the narrow windows and gaping holes of the castle itself. The flaming castle seemed to exist within an endless void, like an artist’s tableau set upon a black canvas.
            Then, like fireflies on a spring night, a sickening green glow began to coalesce in the courtyard of the castle. One by one, twelve cloaked figures came into being, like a distant scene coming into focus within a spyglass. The green light illuminated their skeletal figures, garbed in decaying purple robes etched with eldritch runes and ornamented with ancient crowns, silvered rings, and black-steel breastplates. Jewels glittered on crowns, rings, and breastplates in the eerie glow like a malevolent gaze. Yet it seemed their reality was still in question, for they flickered and spluttered in the endless night like a candle flame about to be extinguished.
            Scarcely had they appeared when another figure appeared in their midst, standing a hand-span higher than the others. In appearance he was alike and yet unalike his companions. Royal robes lined with ermine and scarlet clothed his skeletal body, fitted as if by a skilled tailor. Thin white hair hung down in waves from his otherwise bare skull, the pale tendrils strangely mimicking the shape of long hair and beard. In but a glance it was clear that he stood more firmly in reality than the other skeletal figures, yet the lack of crown, jewelry, and armor diminished whatever advantage this would hold.
            All was silent in the endless night. Then a faint breeze rustled decaying cloth, bringing with it the scent of death and rot. And the tall one spoke out a single word, and the stones and earth alike quivered in resonance. “Awake,” he said, spoken and yet not spoken from his unmoving skull.
            At his word the flames of the castle flared higher, and the ground shook with the force of his command. The green glow that surrounded the figures burst forth, like heavy smoke driven by a fierce gale. As its grasping tendrils leaped forward, the ground split asunder, and creatures born from man’s nightmares emerged from the earth like hatchlings from their eggs. No two of these horrors were alike. Some were naught but yellowed bones, skeletal fingers clutching rusted blade or scythe. On others dark, rotted flesh still clung to their form, partially concealed beneath leather rags of clothing. Still others seemed as if just awakened from sleep, save for their pale white complexion, blackened claws, and lifeless eyes of deepest scarlet. In what seemed like only moments a mighty host had emerged, and in orderly ranks they assembled in the courtyard, then paused to pay homage to the one who had called them back into reality.
            “Unseal the tomb,” the tall robed figure said. At his words, the doors leading into the great hall creaked open, as if moved by unseen hands. A piercing wail sounded from within, and two foul spirits came forth, little more than twisting shimmers in the air, like heat rising from desert sands. Garbed in ragged cloaks, the two spirits escorted the tall skeletal figure as he slowly moved into the great hall.
            In the pale green light cast by these horrors, there was but a glimpse of what once might have been a magnificent chamber, where perhaps long tables had once hosted the royal court in fine splendor by the warmth and light of a large fire within the hearth. But now all was cold and dark, and whatever finery had once graced the chamber long rotted away or destroyed. The tall figure paid it no heed, but turned and walked to the far end of the hall, flanked by the two foul spirits. He stopped, and the spirits wailed once more, the sound of pure agony and despair. A panel slid aside in the wall, revealing a narrow stairway terminating in a large stone door.
            As the figure descended to the cold stone floor at the bottom of the stairs, a sharp crack resounded in the chamber. The figure placed an outstretched skeletal hand upon a stone door, and the stone shattered like a clay pot, crumbling to pieces at his feet. The shards crumbled to dust as he strode through the doorway into utter darkness that seemed animated by malevolent hate.
            As he entered, the sickly green light seemed to grow in power, until its smoky tendrils filled the chamber. Their light revealed a stone bier, guarded by statues carved to resemble knights resplendent in dark purple arms and armor. Once more the figure laid his skeletal hand upon the stone, and the lid of the bier shattered at his unholy touch. The interior of the coffin appeared strangely unsoiled by time and decay, and glowed violet from four artifacts carefully arranged on a long cloak etched with arcane symbols.
            In the center of the tomb lay a steel breastplate, its dark metal trimmed with gold and embossed with a violet sigil depicting an inverted burning tower. Towards the front sat a small golden crown, inset with jewels centered around a large emerald. Near the foot was a stone scepter, depicting a skeletal claw clutching an amethyst as large as a hen’s egg. And loose upon a silvery chain draped across the breastplate was a bleached white ring, which looked as if a long finger bone had been bent into a perfect circle and shaped into a seamless whole.
            The skeletal figure gazed at these unholy artifacts, then extended a clawed hand into the bier. But for all his solidity, his hand passed unhindered through them, like a rock dropping into a still pond without a single telltale ripple. His eyes narrowing in rage, the figure stood, turning his gaze as if upon an unseen observer.
            “Bring them to me. Release me, and at last take up your birthright. And in the endless night, Baelfegor shall at last live again!”

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