Monday, November 23, 2009

First Draft Blues – NaNoWriMo

Just wanted to post a quick blog this week. Things got a little tough last week with work intruding on my writing time and other interruptions. But I accomplished my goal of getting ahead of the scheduled word count (mostly because the week of Thanksgiving is going to be crazy). Still things haven’t gone all that smoothly.

I got the first draft blues, something that happens every time I work on long fiction. It usually hits after the halfway point and I attribute it to a couple things: story fatigue and self-doubt. Self-doubt is self explanatory, but story fatigue is a little stranger. Basically I get tired of telling the same story. I want it done so I can work on something else (usually some new-fangled idea that popped into my head while writing this one). Story fatigue is sign that the fire to write the story is growing dim – it also means I need to wrap this puppy up.

The self-doubt portion of the First Draft Blues is the whole “this story is crap, what was I thinking” mantra that pops up. It occurs after you run into a few hard patches in story – places that you found really difficult to write. You begin to wonder if you’ve written yourself into a hole. You begin to think back on what you’ve written and feel that it’s horrible. You question the need to even finish this turd.

I think this happens to most writers, and the only solution is to power forward and finish writing. In a way that’s what makes NaNoWriMo a great tool. You’ve got a self imposed deadline, you’ve got to meet it with a quota of words, so no matter what you end up writing it’s completed – and that’s the key. The first draft is supposed to be bad. The second draft is where you sit down, read the puppy and find all the great bits that are inside. You pick up the themes and tie them together. You weave the story tighter, cut out all the fat, and add muscle where it’s needed. The second draft is closer to the story the way it should be told.

Stephen King has a great analogy of writing. The first draft is just cracking off the huge piece of marble that will be the story. It’s lumpy and misshapen, but the basics are there. The next passes will reveal the statue underneath. And that is where the real story is made.

So the first draft, blues and all, is important because the completed idea is done. It’s the first step and you can’t have a completed version without the first draft. It just takes some additional will power to say “Hey this draft stinks. No worries, I’ll check it out in a month or two and see all the great stuff it does have. I don’t fear the red pen.”

So for now, I’ve got to forget the blues, forget the other “amazing” story idea I just got (or write an outline for it), stop whining in my blogs about hating the first draft – and just write it in time for the end date. I did it last year and I can do it again.

Ever get the first draft blues? Ever hit story fatigue? What do you do to fight these monsters? Do you never have any of the issues above?

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