Tag Archives: fear

Love your pile of words (first drafts)

I love my current first draft.
This is a shocking and unfashionable thing to say. Everyone laments their first draft. It is the shoals of mediocrity on which our dreams founder, or at least so tells every clickbait online writing workshop. Complaining about the horror of that first draft is required. Even really successful and also good writers do it, and always have.
I love mine. I banged it out for NaNoWriMo 2015, in fewer than my allotted thirty days. Yes, I know that’s a long time ago (I sold a book in the meantime!), but that length of time is supposed to make clear how awful the first draft is, as the scales of hope fall from my more jaundiced and persnickety eyes.
Alas, I love it, blazingly. I have reread it more than once, with comments from my writing dojo NoveltyDC, and each time I am in a better mood.
It’s got half-finished ideas that I now can’t remember, areas that need major restructuring, a lot of plodding exposition. Some of my best supporting characters – like the smuggler with a tail – are on far too briefly. Late ideas may turn out to be organizing principles. No doubt I will rewrite almost every sentence in it, reorganize it, wrestle it. I may occasionally kick it. It will take a lot of work. Even then it will be niche, strange, uncommercial and standalone.
It’s going to be great.
What is wrong with me? How did I get to this place? How did I find joy and wonder in my work while others gnash teeth and tear hair? It isn’t my success to date, which is tiny; nor is it my upbeat disposition, which is pure fakery. So what is it?
Here’s a thought – I love it because it’s a draft. It may be made of words, but it’s not a novel yet. It’s been work of course, the work of felling trees and forging nails, but this is the lumber and hardware and cleared ground, not the finished house. It’s a pile of words and ideas, and for that, it’s just fine. Well, maybe I will need a few more words.
The draft is the start, the lumber and blueprints. It will not house or warm you, not without a lot of work to come. It’s just a stage.
Get excited. And get to work.

On scaring people with writing

The Atlantic notes with alarm the bizarre saga of Patrick McLaw, a writer and teacher put under medical evaluation seemingly for the violent story lines of his self-published novels, to media reports wholly absent of reminders of the right of free speech. Although subsequent reports hint, weirdly, at greater issues, Ken White nicely states the concern that not only do governments overreach, the media often serves them as “obliging stenographers.”
I’m curious about the more general notion, that an imagined horror is somehow more threatening when the person imagining it is somehow related to the situation. Is it really so much worse if a teacher pens a novel about a school-shooting? If a colonel penned a novel about a rogue officer, would it affect the colonel’s career in a way Stanley Kubrick never had to worry about? Can an air-traffic controller not write about a disturbed pilot, or a lawyer write about a corrupt judge?
Must we outsource our dark sides to disinterested parties, absolved of ill intent by the condom of “research”?