This week, I’m participating in a challenge with several writer friends. My goal is to finally finish the rough draft of mess-in-progress, which, incidentally, looks about as good right now as the embryo pictured here.
I know better than to worry about it. My first drafts are always incredibly clunky and they always clean up nicely by the fourth round of revisions or so.
But just because I know better doesn’t mean I don’t hate this part of the process. And I really shouldn’t. Anna DeStefano taught a workshop at the NJRW conference where she likened drafting a novel to dumpster-diving. You have to sift through a lot of garbage to find the pearls.
And it should be fun.
But I have a lot of trouble cutting loose and having fun. Maybe it’s the Catholic upbringing. Maybe it’s the lack of childhood pets! 🙂 In any case, I’d like to get over this. I’m frankly tired of the fear and self loathing. Why should I feel guilty about writing bad first draft?
An idea I’m toying with right now is taking part in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. NaNoWriMo is, accordingly to the website, “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.”
So if I do this, I would put the completed draft of m-i-p on the backburner and try to blast through another story that’s been niggling at me. Maybe the break from m-i-p will help me approach the rewrites with a fresh mindset. Maybe I’ll end up with a good chunk of a new story.
Is it my muse talking or the procrastination devil? My inner critic (who rather alarmingly speaks with the voice of my elementary school principal) says this is a creative way to procrastinate on the rewrites for m-i-p. She thinks I’m just going to waste time hanging out on the message boards at NaNoWriMo. But I wouldn’t do that. Would I?
My friends at Writer Unboxed are mulling similar questions. (Also, there’s a lovely essay on the Death of the Muse by the winner of their Alphasmart contest.)
Am I nuts to think about doing this? Readers, what do you think of writers churning out 50,000+ words in a month? Writers, any of you planning to take the challenge?
The good thing is apparently they will take scrambled manuscripts for the wordcount verification. So if I do this, no one has to read my drecky draft!
Elena, who prefers not to die of shame
LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice, Best Regency Romance of 2005
No fricken way. My hats off to those of you who can do this, but it sounds awful to me.
No way here, either.
I can’t move forward in the writing unless I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done already. So I’d spend the whole month hating myself for not going back and ripping the rotten parts out.
Good luck, though.
I’m going to have to follow the herd and say “no way”, too! Though I have enormous admiration for anyone who can do that. By the time I finish a rough draft I am pretty tired of the characters and their story and everything about them, so I try very hard to make that rough draft as good as I can get it so revisions are minimum. I couldn’t do four revisions without ripping my hair out!
Ah, I wish I could write something good the first time!
But early in my writing career I realized that wasn’t happening. Revising the same scene 16 times and then discovering it didn’t fit the final plot was also crazymaking.
About the same time I heard about Book-in-a-Week and started to apply some BIAW principles to my process. Odd as it sounds, I get books done faster in multiple drafts than I would in a single one.
But I still hate the first draft and it’s getting worse now that I’m tackling longer books.
I have also tried intensive pre-plotting, but so far that hasn’t helped much. I need to get dirty with real scenes before I really know what’s going on and what my characters want and need.
So now the idea of getting through that first draft quickly, like pulling a bandaid, has its appeal.
I wonder if BIAW works well for those kind of writers who can do a “script” draft that is almost all dialogue and then go back and fill in the MS around the conversations?
I’m fascinated by the idea of that process, but I can’t imagine how to do it. My writing is so heavy on setting, the details, blocking and body language being part of the conversation taking place. I don’t think my brain could write just dialogue.
A wise woman once told me you have to write it bad first before you can write it good. She was sooo right.
That woman is Elena Greene.
Since my first drafts (and second, and third…) are horrible bits of vomitus dreck, I’d like to see how getting the bulk of it out of the way quickly is going to work. It could be a disaster.
But I liken writing a novel to running in a maze trying to find the right path. Takes a few blind alleys before the way is found. But kudos to those who can get it right the first time.
I usually find that the characters and plot arc have changed once I get to the end…so getting to the end quickly has it’s charms.
Think of it this way: NaNo is an opportunity to create a new embryo. Ugly, yes, but with enormous potential for beauty after the proper amount of nourishment. Are you procrastinating with the m-i-p? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I think there’s great value in letting something attain a little shelf life before tackling an edit. So maybe it’s a win-win situation? You get a needed break from story one so you can view with fresh eyes later, while creating a brand new life in story number two.
I don’t think NaNoWriMo has ever sounded appealing to me, but I do know people who get very into the idea.
On the other hand, Book In A Week does work for me… Not that I’ve ever written a book in a week — very few do, or even try to — but the dedicating one week to nothing but writing, and telling the family to Stay Clear and Leave Me Alone, can work very well. And it’s only a week!
Elena, as to whether you should take a break from your problem ms — I have no idea. Still trying to figure out my writing process, and have no idea about anyone else’s! 🙂
(who is having serious doubts about her decision to start her wip where she did…)
Kathleen, thanks for the kind words! Though I must have qualified that statement with a “sometimes”, because I know that what works for me is not necessarily what works for someone else.
Kalen, you’re close in likening this to a script process. In my case, I need to understand the characters and have a good idea of the plot before I can put any of it into readable form. So my first drafts are the verbal equivalent of thumbnail sketches some artists make before starting a large painting. They may make no sense to anyone else.
It just would be nice to find a way to get through the process less painfully!
I guess I DO follow some of the BIAW ideas, then! When I’m finishing up a story, I take a week off the day job, stay home in my pajamas with the phone ringer off and the Internet unplugged and work furiously to finish the darn piece of crap, er, fabulous story. 🙂 (“Vomitous dreck”–LOL, and too appropriate!). My house and my person do not look pretty at the end, but it does work wonderfully well for pushing through to the finish line.
I know a couple of people on a mailing list that did that last year. I believe they made it. Not sure if I could do it myself, but the idea sounds pretty good, it forces you to do it. Obviously you can go back and fix it up later. . . ultimately, I guess what I’m thinking is it might be a good thing to do once, and see what comes from it if you’re so inclinded and able to. 🙂
Dedicating one week to nothing but writing, and telling the family to Stay Clear and Leave Me Alone, can work very well. And it’s only a week!
True. But it feels like a month. 🙂
I’m…um…writing a book this month on a deadline. My hope is to have it done by Nov 1 so I can polish it in Nov and turn it in before Thanksgiving.
I like the BIAW concepts but anytime I signed up to do it, I found a brazillion things that needed doing around the house–must straighten underwear drawer first, clean out garage, wash all the curtains…
That’s a coincidence, Diane — whenever I sign up to do a BIAW, I find myself dancing a samba and attending carnival and doing lots of other Brazilian things!