Monday, October 01, 2012

First Drafts and Other Dirty Little Secrets

The other day I read something about an author who is allowing readers to watch her novel-writing process via Google Docs. That's one ballsy lady, I thought. I could never imagine allowing anyone access to my false starts, my flailing, my failures. My first drafts are ugly little things. Really, truly homely. Every single one of them begins like an awkward adolescent with bad skin and bad posture and a bad haircut. You, the reader, don't see them until they've somehow survived that awkward phase and bloomed into the pretty and smart things they were destined to be.

I kind of love the illusion that my novels come out fully formed, my prose lovely, and my characters fleshy and real. But this illusion is a dangerous thing as well, because it says to beginning writers that first drafts are something to be ashamed of. That they are something that writer's shouldn't talk about, shouldn't share, shouldn't even become too attached to.

I am a teacher as well as a writer, and I feel as though I am constantly trying to relay the notion that writing is a process -- and even that one should stand back and look at entire books as just part of the larger process of making a writing life. But that's a hard point to drive home, when what I typically offer of my own work is what's on the pages of already published novels. They aren't the crappy paragraphs riddled with cliches and flat characters. They aren't the rambling pages of exposition, of stilted dialogue, of clumsy descriptions.

So...while I am not yet ready to bare all, (boy, the Queen would have loved me), I am willing to share a bit of the clunky business of drafting a novel. That was part of the whole point of this blog to begin with, wasn't it? of October 1, 2012 (that's today), here is where I am with my novel. I changed my mind about something huge. I had to nix my 86 year old agoraphobe. She just doesn't belong in this book. Every morning for two weeks I have woken up at 4 a.m. wracking my brain my as to why I couldn't seem to decided what was going to happen next. (I sort of ran out of steam after the first 10,000 words...and started wondering if maybe this whole thing was just another terrible idea.) And then it dawned on me that all that fear and anxiety she was feeling, that need to closet herself away really belongs to my narrator's mother instead.

A few days ago, I began to hear this strangely hypnotic voice that, I think, will open the book as a sort of prologue...but keeping it means losing the old lady. I have no choice.

Other things that happened this week? I have researched Nascar, taxidermy, and bridges. So much about bridges. And yesterday, I finally got my opening chapter written. What if a boy is sent to live with his agoraphobic mom for two weeks while his amputee Dad and uncle drive to Daytona after winning a ride in the pace car? We'll see. And I'll keep you posted. Here.


Maggie said...

I love reading your blog! You are a wonderful writer and you inspire me. One thing I have learned from my own blog is that I would like to pursue more in the arena of writing one day. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't, but it is not out of the question anymore for me.

Sue Boggio said...

I love this. The agony and the beauty of a first draft. Making decisions without knowing everything yet. Feeling along in the dark, having to trust your gut and at times retrace your steps to see where the path went astray. And yes, for me too it always starts with "What if?" and it continues with one 'what if' after another until the choices I make start to feel like I'm connecting to the truth. I do love first drafts, or at least the process of creating them. Attempting to solve the problems, put together the puzzle, the discovery of what it is that yearns to be born. It's why I write.

T. Greenwood said...

Thanks for taking a peek...