Sunday, December 9, 2012

A heartfelt apology to First Draft

“First draft: let it run. Turn all the knobs up to 11. Second draft: hell. Cut it down and cut it into shape. Third draft: comb its nose and blow its hair. I usually find that most of the book will have handed itself to me on that first draft.” - Terry Pratchett

Now that all the fervor from NaNoWriMo has died down, I'm left with the task of revising 50 thousand words which was intended to be the start of a novel. This is the longest, most complex piece I have written thus far - in the past I had a predilection for poetry and flash fiction - and the business of editing my masterpiece is daunting.

The thing is, I sort of knew where I was headed when I started writing, but I got lost along the way. I suppose since I haven't actually done the revisions yet, and have no idea how the project will turn out in the end, the verdict isn't out on that yet. Allow me to rephrase that last bit: I either got terribly lost, or found a beautiful undiscovered land full of possibility. More likely, it carries the possibility of both, and the outcome depends on my skill and commitment as a writer. No pressure.

A first draft can be very intimidating, especially if you write like I do.  I approach writing the same way I approach everything else in my life - by the seat of my pants. Those of you immersed in the writing world will recognize the term "pantser". Yep, that's me - I'm a pantser. So even though I did have a vague and general idea of what I was trying to accomplish, the writing took over. It took on a life of its own. 

I skimmed it yesterday and I was taken aback. There were parts that I hardly remember writing. Sections that just knocked my socks off. A whole lot of telling instead of showing, which we all know is a violation of a cardinal writing rule. There is a character that I despise and detest. I can hardly read about him, so I'm a little unsettled that I thought him up and then brought him to life inside of my computer. There are hundreds of punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes which make me want to run shrieking into the night. 

Things got a little crazy for awhile. I dismally was behind on my word count and the story line had taken a turn into funky town. I intentionally stopped punctuating dialogue because there just wasn't time. I was drinking coffee like it was water and in a fit of desperation I wrote approximately twelve thousand words in one day. Twelve thousand. It was a blur. This was not my most polished writing. Parts of the draft are exactly like the stream of consciousness of a clinically insane person. As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently said, "The first draft of anything is shit." This is a true statement in the case of my draft of Moonshine.

But guess what? It doesn't matter. I did it. The idea that I'd been knocking around for a years finally has a form. It's limping a little and looks like it could use a hot bath and a nice cup of tea, but it has a form.  It's real and is probably moping around at this very moment, a little hurt that I've been studiously avoiding eye contact for the past nine days. I won't lie. I've been intentionally ignoring it because I've been simultaneously intimidated, terrified, and ashamed. 

Today I found this quote by Annie Dillard: "For writing a first draft requires from a writer a peculiar internal state which ordinary life does not induce to set yourself spinning?"  I suddenly realize that I might be doing it right after all. I've certainly got that spinning thing down. Or that maybe there is no right way. I have hope. I know that it might take a very long time, and the novel might never be published, but it doesn't matter all that much. As I work through this process, I'll be satisfied. Happy. Giggling right down into my soul. I wouldn't trade that for the world. 

And the truth is, I think it has promise. It's a good story. First Draft, I'm sorry for abandoning you. I was afraid. We can work through this together, I know that now. I should have had more faith in you and more faith in myself. Let's make a new start, you and I, and never look back.

The art in this post was created by the enormously talented Lou Ros, who generously agreed that I could use his images. I have embarked on a new Ink & Alchemy project which features a new artist daily and I have updated my website to more clearly explain that process. If you're an artist and would like to participate, check out the call to artists. You might also be interested in more information for Featured Artists and the I&A social media sites. You can email me with questions.

I'm hosting a basic course focused on promoting your creative work via social media. It will take place in Albuquerque, NM on Jan. 6, 2013 from 1-3p. There is no charge. If you or someone you know is interested, please let me know by e-mail so that I can plan accordingly. I have had several queries about an online version, but unfortunately I will not be doing that this time. If this first event is a success, I will certainly consider that option and I do really appreciate the interest. 

Lastly, I will be updating some of my own art images today in an effort to submit to an upcoming exhibition here in Albuquerque. Someone please hold me to this - I have been procrastinating for far too long and deadline is quickly approaching. 

I'd like to ask a favor.  Please help me to share this post and/or my Call to Artists in an effort to promote I&A's Featured Artist Project. It's a terrific opportunity for artists to gain more exposure and network with other artists and potential customers. The more we share, the better it becomes! Thank you!

I wish each of you a very peaceful holiday shopping season. 

Don't let it get the best of you!


  1. First drafts are a hot mess. I'm trying to get one into shape right now.

    Love the artwork btw.

  2. Thanks, Donna - for two things: the encouragement regarding drafts and the compliment on the artwork. Have a great week!


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