The Insecure Writer’s Group: My First Draft and the Strange Old Mansion

Hello! The Insecure Writers’ Group is a group of writers offering motivation and encouragement to all those taking on the challenges of writing. Every month the ISWG sponsors a blog hop where writers can blog about a topic related to overcoming obstacles and exploring various aspects of the writing journey. If you’d like to participate in a future hop you can join here. This is my third time participating and I really enjoy it and highly recommend!

This month the question is as follows:

For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

So when I read the question for this month, it tied in well to something that has been on my mind recently. I love reading about creepy old houses, and am particularly fascinated by abandoned mansions. There is something really mind blowing about a gorgeous old house left to decay. It makes you wonder….why??! Why would such a grand structure be allowed to crumble to dust? What is the story? Because there almost certainly is one. I know this is all sounding somewhat random, but bear with me on it I’ll eventually get to my point 🙂

It is in these perusals on Pinterest where I first discovered the Winchester Mystery House. The Winchester House is not an abandoned mansion, but it is still a truly fascinating landmark and it definitely has a story. Sarah Winchester, widow of William Wirt Winchester of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, began construction on the house in 1884 in San Jose, California. The story goes that Sarah began building the house with no plan, which led to a bizarre collection of 160 mismatched rooms, staircases to nowhere, oddly placed windows, 17 chimneys, and many other unusual features. We can only really speculate on Sarah’s motives now, but construction on the house was said to be ceaseless, with teams of builders executing the bizarre vision for the home without pause, day and night for decades. Today the Winchester House stands as a testament to….what? Boundless energy? A mysterious vision? A haunted woman grappling with inner demons? I don’t know really, but if you’re in San Jose I think it would be a really interesting place to visit (please let me know if you’ve ever been, I’d love to hear about it.)

Where am I going with this and how is my first draft like the Winchester House? Well….here’s the thing. I have been working on this most recent first draft FOR A LONG TIME. Not as long as Sarah and her mansion thank goodness, but longer than I feel a first draft should be taking. And sometimes, it feels as though my outline is about as well planned as the layout of the Winchester House. Looking back I realize that I began my first draft a little like Sarah began construction on her mansion–energetically adding and adding and adding with very little framework. And now that I have this sort of confusing all over the place product, I’m going back and taking away, and trying to make things a little more cohesive.

What effect has this had on my productivity over all? Well, it’s had a huge impact! When your first draft process is so chaotic and you have yet to learn how to rein it in, it can make things challenging. It’s my goal to get a little more organized/structured in the future. I’m working on it.

How do you organize your first draft, and how long do you let it sit before coming back to it? Let me know in the comments below!

-Winter

7 thoughts on “The Insecure Writer’s Group: My First Draft and the Strange Old Mansion

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  1. The writing group I was a part of- and thankfully have now left- banged on about world building and characters. So I’m building that up before I draft. Now the first draft don’t worry about making perfect. Get that story on paper. Then let it sit as long as you can (if you can stand it, make it a month before you pick it up again) that way the details have faded and it’s a fresh read when you go back. The Winchester Manor is fascinating, the idea that you bear that much guilt over the deaths caused by your product you want to mislead vengeful ghosts into dead ends is crazy horror material. Good luck and although I am way too chicken to read I hope it turns out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Holly! It is sooo interesting, I never get tired of researching into creepy old houses like the Winchester House. That’s a great point about letting the memories of the first draft fade a bit before picking it back up again, I’ve noticed how different my perspective is and how many things I notice once I read it again with fresh eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good point! I like this comparison! Going back and finding a random character or interaction is very much like discovering a random closet that is six inches deep and will only hold one broom- ie “what was I thinking when I planned this”?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Having rarely (and not for years) completed a first draft of any piece of fiction I say ‘chapeau’ to you. I’m not sure about the idea of reining the process in at this stage, because you may hamper your flow, however chaotic it might seem, and then your first draft could become as non-existent as mine!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You definitely should Jessy, it’s so much fun! Thank you so much for reading and commenting, I think letting the first draft sit for a few weeks before revising is a great way to edit, I unfortunately either start editing too soon or wait too long and then forget a bunch of details of what I was writing 😂 I have to work on that!

      Liked by 1 person

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