The Vomit Draft : 135,297 words

Quote from Joan of Arc.

“Congrats on finishing the first draft of your novel. That’s a really big deal by the way,” said Writer Friend.

Instead of  basking in the glow of my accomplishment, my heart sank into my stomach and flipped over three times as I replied with a half hearted, “Yeah, thanks.”

Writer Friend gave me a look that said, “You’ve finished a rough draft of your novel. I’d like to hug you AND punch you in the face.”

“You want to punch me in the face right now, don’t you?” I said.

She laughed and said, “Pretty much.”

The truth of the matter is even though I have 491 pages, 102 chapters and 135,297 words, it’s still not a novel. It’s a story. It’s a good story that has the raw potential to be a great story. It’s a story that I could see selling millions of copies. It’s a story that I could see being a blockbuster movie in 2017.

But right now, just between you and me, it’s a hot mess. I have a lead character that I am not sure is entirely likeable. The first sixty pages are written like a script — no, not even a script. A treatment for a script. There are serious plot holes. I need to do a ton more research to flesh it all out. I have too many characters.

It’s a mess and I’m the only one who can clean it up. Did I mention how much I hate cleaning? I’d much rather sit down and spew out pages and pages of a vomit draft. The sitting down and cleaning out the vomit draft, I hate. That part stops me dead in my tracks. The thing is I love this story. I want to honor it and do right by it.  Over 300,000 books are published in the US every year, and I can only imagine how many books that are written that are not published, I want to send out the best possible manuscript. But before I can do that I need to edit. I need to hone. I need to refine.

And today what do I find in my in box? An email titled Second Draft Thoughts by Steven Pressfield. He wrote a book that turned my creative life around titled The War of Art. He also wrote another book called Turning Pro. He also writes a Writing Wednesdays blog. If you are writing, I recommend listening to anything and everything Pressfield has to say.

Today, it seemed as though Mr. Pressfield was reading my mind when he said, “Second drafts are tough. The reason we bypassed those sticking points earlier is because they were hard. They presented problems that we didn’t want to face. Now in Draft #2 we have to face them.”

To this blog post, there is an inner voice in my head yelling, “But I don’t wanna face them!”

I sat down and wrote a punch list of all my sticking points. Then I read the post The Second Draft (Is Not a Draft) by Shawn Coyne, a long time editor, agent, publisher, writer AND contributor to Writing Wednesdays. Coyne’s website The Story Grid also has helpful editing resources.

Right now, I am reading through my novel, my story just a once through then I will start taking more notes on the problem areas. Then I will continue to do more research. Then I will use Coyne’s Story Grid to outline my story.

I will see you in about six months time with the second draft of my novel.

Amelia Estelle Dellos is a writer.

She is a screenwriter, playwright, novelist, copywriter, and blogger.  She is currently working on the second draft of her novel Delilah.

For updates follow her on



5 thoughts on “The Vomit Draft : 135,297 words

  1. Oh I am soooooooo with you on the vomit draft. In fact that’s the Purgatory I’m living in right now myself. For my part, I’m flailing in the boat of my draft being *way* too long and none of it looking like it can go.

    Editing Hell, baby! *solidarity fistbump*

  2. It is a special hell to have to edit your own work. I feel your pain. Check out The Story Grid. May the Muse Be With YOU!

  3. I am in the trenches with you on the second draft! The uber perfectionist in me likes extending, fleshing out, and refining whole sections. I’ve spent the last few days playing with my novel’s super-structure. (There are stories within stories.) What I am finding challenging is the architecture of houses that Western audiences are unfamiliar with. How do you translate a “window pane” when there is no window? How do you translate “house-ladder”? Fun, fun, fun!

  4. You bring up a good point. How do you know when your DONE done? We can tinker till the cows come home, can’t we?

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