But that isn't what this blog is about. I recently joined the Operations Committee of an organization devoted to carrying out the good works of my favorite author (long deceased). Several years ago, a biographer amassed a tremendous amount of source material, and the biographer has since passed away, leaving his entire body of research and writings to the organization. I agreed to help organize this vast amount of material, which runs to tens of thousands of computer files consuming terabytes of storage.
I only got a chance to look at samples of the material before I left on vacation, but I was excited at what I found. Included in the research material are the first drafts of most of the author's novels. I can quite literally compare the first draft to the published work and see the alterations made for both technical and word limit edits.
I first looked at my favorite novel, which was published at about 73,000+ words (and this is the novel I wrote a sequel to earlier this year). The first draft is purported to be 100,000 words. The first draft available to me is simply the typewritten pages scanned, by image, into a PDF file--so verifying the word count myself is not straightforward, but that doesn't matter.
When I saw that there were more than 25,000 words in cuts, it made me wonder if there were scenes cut from the first draft. That's the treasure you'd like to find in an unseen first draft, like deleted scenes from a favorite movie. I haven't read the entire first draft yet--just not in the cards while I was on vacation--but from what I have read, I don't think I'm going to find deleted scenes.
It looks like all the cuts, amounting to better than 25% of the first draft, are quite simply the elimination of extraneous modifying words and phrases.
This was not an early effort by the author. He'd routinely published at least one novel a year for almost a decade when he wrote this book, and was in demand by magazines for a decade before that. This was a veteran, best-selling author whose first draft had the same issues that my first drafts have, and your first drafts have.
That information was both enlightening and encouraging. I'm sure I'll write more about this as I continue to dig into both this novel and others.