I am thrilled that a recent pass through added depth to my draft of The Light in Darkness.
After my zero draft, I go day by day adding essentials to my draft, making it stronger by making things more palpable to the reader. Because my first draft is about finishing, it is necessary for me to go back to add flourishes.
Let’s look at some improvements by comparing the old with the new.
This is the old draft section, where the main character, Ihara, arrives with his son Gakuto to a new city, guided in a caravan by John Quick, Captain of the Capitol Army:
The sun set to Ihara’s left had as he peaked outside of his carriage to see where John Quick was situated ahead of them.
But all he could see was must have been the capital city instead. A large stone facing could be seen in the distance, a wall perhaps, or a bridge. It was as high as any glacier that Ihara had seen, and dotted with signs of human occupation. Trails of white smoke rose around it from multiple points both ahead and behind it. Wood and rope could be seen affixed to it.
And at its base, a village sprawled from it as a focal point.
From the village itself, clusters of buildings could be seen as dark pocks within a grassy landscape. They were bunched together. Large flickering points of light floated atop them.
The sun cast shadows on shadows because of them.
The carriages rumbled on towards a colonnade of five stone columns as high as two winter pines. A broad leafed covered each, but between vines, Ihara could see the stone was chipped and worn.
OK – that’s not terrible.
It certainly is an efficient way to describe the approach to the new city. But maybe it needed more? Could the reader envision what was happening? Are they in the scene? Was I showing and not telling? I decided that I would address all of those things in the draft, drawing more from my vision of the scene than just the basics.
Spending time crafting scenes and adding description in my second pass definitely made a difference, I would say.
Take a look:
Ihara, waking from a nap in his carriage, peeked outside just in time before the daylight became entirely suffocated by the horizon.
An ancient white monstrosity loomed in the distance, its surroundings lit not by the blanched evening but by thousands of glowering, blue points of light. That monstrosity, an ancient wall of enormous proportions, curled up to a height hundreds of men tall and sloped slightly outward at its top, its upper lip crumbling unevenly as it hung over the land beneath it. Ihara could have easily construed it as a mythically large tidal wave from the Lake, or a broken and inverted mountain, or a vertigo of his eye. But not on that day, not with John Quick heading a caravan from the Arid Lands. Most certainly it was the Capitol city of Lake lore, the largest and most wealthy city of the known world.
Reaching from within the thousands of blue points of light were lines that splayed eastward and westward from the base of the ancient wall, a massive village sweeping downward until it reached a cragged riverbank the held by the hillside. The partially lit patterns were uneven and clawing from beneath an ethereal haze of smoke or heat or late evening fog.
Surely it was dark smoke that gripped the eastern part of the Capitol, pummeling any blue light from view and rising as if only to demonstrate the true height of the ancient structure behind it, reaching the sky only after building and building upon itself from the ground.
The caravan rumbled up the sole road that drove to the heart of the pulsing city, over a muck covered bridge and passing a colonnade of darkened stone columns, themselves crumbled and worn.
So, there’s some definite improvement there, even if it can be tweaked with edits. The description gets deeper, touching on the structures and how the light of the scene interacts with them. I try not to dwell, but to add enough depth to give the reader an idea of what was in my imagination that made the scene in the first place.
In this way, I think of my second draft as an opportunity to embellish, efficiently, so that the reader can join me in what I see. Because I accomplished my first goal of finishing the MS, I feel obligated to add more so that the reader gets the same feeling from the scene from reading it that I got from writing it.
I encourage you to do the same.
Be encouraged by your revisions. Use them add and improve. Embellish some of the rote descriptions in your MS to make it stronger.
I think I have with mine.