Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Confessions from the writer

I write badly. I started writing stories when I was seven or eight and my early efforts were pretty awful, but that isn't what I mean. Today, right now, I write prose that alternates between simplistic drivel and florid prose, sometimes in the same sentence. Why do I create such abominations of the word? Well it's so I get something done.

I forget which writer this habit was attributed to, but the story goes he would type maybe a sentence a day and that would be a good days work. Now I have been known for some massive run ons in my day but that fault aside, say a sentence is usually 2- 20 words. Novels tend to be 50,000-150,000 words. That's like 13 years to write a novel. It's an extreme example, but when I started writing I had this image of the tortured writer agonizing over every word. Only the right word could hit the paper. I tried that technique, and I found that writing a story for me is like rolling a barrel. I need to build up momentum to keep it going otherwise the story and characters slip away and I start losing everything.

My solution is drafting. I think that it is fair to say very few rough drafts are publishing ready. In fact I would be surprised if any were. This is why we edit and rewrite, sometimes starting the whole thing again from scratch. It is a recent solution for me. I spent years, nearly ten of them in fact, trying to make everything come out perfectly start to finish. I wanted to read the novel I was writing as it happened, but I spent so much time editing what I had already written my forward progress was minimal.

Now I am a member of the terrible first draft club, may those drafts never see the light of day. I write faster (although I am still a slow writer in the grand scheme of things) and keep notes of what needs to be changed as I go. I skip things, write out of order, and decide in chapter 13 that Suzy has had a cat this whole time so I really should fix that once it's written. The end result is a mass of story that has a beginning and end and covers the main plot points. The characters are there but still rough in how they are coming out on the paper. To metaphor it is like making a sculpture. The first draft I make the frame for my story, dig up the clay, and pound the heck out of it. The rest of the drafts will make sure the frame is covered and making a pretty piece of art.

1 comment:

  1. Denise--

    Thanks for your words of encouragement! I will be checking out that site tomorrow (I just got back from four days of camping and am wore out!).

    Thanks again, so very much.