Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Writing Process: First Drafts

Writing a brand new novel (my first after finishing the Glitch trilogy) is a totally weird experience. I started and stopped three other books as I tried to settle on the one I want to write. Fourth idea was the winner! I really believe it can be a great book, the book I’ve been wanting to write for years.

For me, drafting is always fraught with equal parts anxiety and excitement. On one hand, when I get in a crazy groove like I’m in now, I’m a totally happy person – cheery with my husband, laughing with my son. And on the other hand, I’m a neurotic mess because of this weighty pressure or anxiety—the best metaphor for how it makes me feel is like I can’t take a deep breath till I’ve gotten the story in my head all out on paper. Like if I don’t get it down NOW it will all evaporate. It’s so intangible just sitting up there in my brain. I’m jittery and restless until I can get it solid on paper, something I can hold in my hand. So all throughout the day I feel this nagging desire tugging at the back of my brain to get back to the book, like worrying about whether you turned the coffeemaker off or something else important you’ve left undone but can’t quite put your finger on. I'm almost constantly thinking about the book, scheming for when I can next steal some time and energy to work on it.

A lot of the time, when I’m not actually writing, I’m still just lost in the world of it. Planning out my next scene, thinking about the character arc of my MC. But also now I hear other voices in my head—wondering if it’s good enough, if we’ll be able to sell it, if my agent will like it. If I let myself think about those things, they can totally derail the creative process.

Part of the issue is I’m an ugly first drafter. My characters are too reactive, the melodrama goes way over the edge from captivating to schlocky, and I generally figure out how the plot should be told as I’m in the latter 3/4 of the book. I listen to the fabulous Writing Excuses podcast on a regular basis and one writer on there keeps talking about how he’s a one drafter. As in, his first draft is his last draft. I cannot wrap my brain around that. It’s how I so WISH I could write. All the saved words and pages and time! I’ve tried outlining, revising as I go, and a number of other trick but I think it’s time I accept the fact that it’s not how I work.

Second drafts are where the magic happens for me. I need the clay lump of the book and then I can see it all at once and see where I need to shave and where I need to plump. Doing this long enough, I’ve started to learn about myself through my writing process—see the unique and strange ways my mind works. I’ve learned I’m almost a better editor than writer, or that for me, the two tasks are equally at work in producing a book. I write a bad first draft, then the editor in me takes over and sees how it needs to be shaped for character, story, and themes to really be clear. Then I rewrite half the book (or the whole book) and go back in with editor-self again, wash, rinse, repeat until I have a book I’m satisfied with. I wish there was another way that didn’t involve so much work! But alas. This brain is all I’ve got, and I hope I’m learning to embrace my process rather than fight against it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I was curious on the process authors had to do to write a book and I think is a bit weird but fun!