Monday, August 2, 2010

Life as a hack

You know those books that you read sometimes, and you can see what it could have been, if only they'd had a real editor?  This is what I'm struggling with in my current project.  As you may have seen from my most recent Twitter post, I recently hit 20,000 words in my attempt to write an 80,000 word novel.  This makes me a bit of a liar, according to my previous posts where I said I have neither the time nor the patience, but I'm also continuing game writing on the side, so it's not my only outlet.

Still, trying to write something quickly has exposed me to the terrors of something I rarely encounter, because I so rarely work up the courage to try : the crappy first draft.  My book is crap.  Utter rubbish.  I say this only because I can see in my mind what it should be and, indeed, what it will be - if I can edit.  I know where the story is going, so it's only the in-between sections and the minor details that remain unwritten - I have a chapter plan, you see - and I'm finding that invaluable in knowing where I am in terms of the story.  Never again will I come back to a draft, ready to write, and wonder, "What was this idiot thinking?"  I know exactly where I am, all the time.  I just don't know what my characters are doing.

And they're doing strange and possibly wonderful things.  The bumbling idiot has become the competent saviour, and a new character has introduced himself as a temporary antagonist.  The problem is that, even though I've done all my planning and story arcs, my characters haven't.  They react suddenly, and with exclamation marks!  They do things no sane person would do!  They expect me to make sense of it!

And I will.  Later.  I'm encountering what has been my biggest hurdle, now and in the past - editing kills my will to write.  So, it stands to reason, if  want to write, I must not edit.  It sounds simple, right?  When you spend 8 hours a day moonlighting as an editor for 230 students who are 17-something-years-old, not really, no.

But, by not editing, I've given myself something  of a holy grail in terms of getting my story down on paper.  I've given myself permission to write a crappy first draft.  As Jack Black says in his Acceptable TV tutorials, no one even has to read it.  The important thing is that it's keeping me writing, rather than losing track, losing patience, or losing interest.  Don't like that metaphor?  Too bad!  Write it anyway!  I'm sure the cringe factor of this final draft will exceed almost anything else I've ever written.  I'm also sure that it'll be okay.  I can fix it. As Nora Roberts has said, "I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank page."  Here's hoping she's right.  I'll let you know.

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