Retrying an Old Process
I received an email today. The email set me to a small task. The task helped me make a decision. The decision made me send the right email back. The path was pretty straightforward: cause-to-effect, cause-to-effect, cause-to-effect. Sequential. Linear. Except for this other little layer, a seed that got planted somewhere during the sequence and that germinated for the next hour or so. And then I was talking to my husband about. And I had a lightbulb moment.
The task involved pulling out some chapters of an old WIP and reading through a few pages. I had distance and time from the project, from all the words on the page. I had some nice surprises and, yes, some grim recognition of what wasn’t working. The thing was, though, I’d put a pen nearby without really thinking about it, and before I knew it, the pen was in my hand circling sentences and passages, crossing out lines, scribbling critiques and compliments in the margins. The decision meant that, for today at least, those notes aren’t needed. So I put the pen and paper down and went from decision to task.
Then my husband came home, I was describing the sequence, and…
O.M.G. I. LOVE. REVISION.
I know this. I so know this about me. For pete’s sake, it’s a big part of why I participate in a critique group and why I wrote The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, and it’s why I did freelance editing for many years.
I think I just didn’t know until today how much more I like it than first-drafting.
How clueless can I be?
The book I have been most successful in, both in getting it written and in getting it closed to agented & published, I wrote in a week. I’ve blogged about that process before–I did some very basic plotting and then sat down for five days, while my husband and son and brother-in-law took care of Life around me, and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I didn’t take breaks at the end of a chapter, I had a word count for the day, and I reached it. And then I started again the next morning. And I did it again. And when I was done, I had…crap. I sat down and started reading, and it was painful and messy and I didn’t have to even read through the whole thing before I had my first big revelation: I’d given all the action and drive to my sidekick. My hero was observing and narrating, but he was also following. I sat down and started my second draft, in which–in every chapter–I shoved that MC to the forefront of the action and made him do things to make things happen. Sure, I made other, little changes along the way, but the focus of that revision was on one thing and one thing only. And that’s the draft I sent to my critique group.
I think I’d be really fooling myself if I said that I could write the first draft of my current WIP in a week. I’m back to work part-time and, well, I’m just in a different place than I was. I’m not going to dissect all the reasons.
What I’m going to do is try to push myself back into a speedy first-draft mode. I’ve talked about it and blogged about it, but for some reason, I haven’t started doing it again.
I’m setting a goal: Complete first draft of this WIP by the end of the summer, by the day my son goes back to school.
I know this is doable. I know it’s doable by me. Sure, there are ifs, but, frankly, I’m feeling like dropping those ifs down the garbage disposal and flipping the switch.
This means something big for me. This means not sending chapters to my critique group until this draft is done. I’ve talked to so many writers who take this idea as a given; they accept that they can’t receive critiques on their first drafts. I’ve been looking at that idea a little more closely lately, and I’m starting to come around to it. The problem for me has been that I really, really, really love having people read my work. I love the idea that I’m sending it out, that I’ll get to hear people talk about it, brainstorm ideas, come home with more grist for my mill. I’m pretty good at knowing that the comments need to be reserved for later, for when I reach revision. But, somehow, I think wanting to do it that way has gotten me into accepting a slower pace from myself. I’ve slipped back into that idea that I can get my X number of chapters written, send them along, and then–you know–wait a bit and write a few more.
If I loved first-drafting, that might work for me. But I think what I’m doing is keeping myself too long in the stage that is just so-so for me. It feels okay, but it doesn’t feel inspirational or motivational. I feel a little like the kid who gets all their home work done and…gets some more. I don’t hate first drafts, but…oh, revision.
It’s where I want to be.
So that’s the plan. The new process will be the old process, the one that…hello? WORKED.
And we’ll see where it takes me this time around.