Thursday, July 14, 2011

Feel Free to Flounder

FFF - feel free to flounder.

I hate first drafts. Mine never run smoothly, because I have this internal monitor that runs algorithms or something in the background, keeping up with what words are kept and which ones are half-baked. I need to get the first pass of the story down, but in the back of my mind, I don't want to write words that will be discarded later. It's like a race against myself. The coordinator versus the creator.

Did I say I hate first drafts? Argh. Stick me in the eye with jalapeno-coated needles, and I'd be happier. Be done with it, I say. When I finish a first draft I feel like a champagne breakfast (I write through the night) because it's such a rush. Get me to the edits. The work that really matters. It's in the edits that writing takes shape. There lies the fun.

But first drafts are the ugly and necessary part of the process. It's in the first birth of the story that we should be free to flounder. We throw anything and everything into the mix. Slinging paint with no idea what the canvas will look like. Who knows? That girlfriend of the bad guy's assistant might be more than a colorful secondary character. Heck, she might solve the case, or have an IQ of 140 behind the bubblegum and pink hair with a feather and beads woven into it.

Break it lose. Shake it out. Run amok. Be stupid. Try to be smarter than you are. Get sexy with it. Take a perfectly good scene and throw a monkey wrench into it. Just for the friggin' hell of it.

I like order. First drafts have no room for order. They are for dancing muses to leave sloppy, muddy tracks on the page, just to see what patterns they make. Yes, I'm scolding myself. My first draft reached an impasse in Chapter 28 (out of 34), mainly because I wasn't liberal enough in cutting my characters loose earlier.  Crap.

Back to the drawing board. No, wait. Too structured. Bourbon. Oh yeah. That ought to shake up the plot. Bartender, make that a double.

12 comments:

Sioux said...

There are rare times when my first draft--or most of it--goes smoothly. Almost as if it's writing itself. (Of course I'm talking about short stories and essays, not a novel.)

Why is that? Why is the first draft sometimes an easy-breezy thing, and other times...it drives you to drink?

Pass a glass this way.

Kathleen@so much to say said...

Love this! I've been thinking the same thing about first drafts lately...wanting to know the order and structure so I don't waste any tiem writing junk that has to be cut later, floundering through poor structure...I'm glad to know I'm not alone!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I have a tendency to edit as I go for the same reason. I must think that will save me regions... But it never does. :-)

Sarah Pearson said...

I love first drafts; random plot changes, cliches, typos, people who died in chapter two suddenly not being dead in chapter five (and not in a zombie sense!)

The revisions, now that's the part where I sometimes wish I'd coloured between at least a few of the lines :)

Krissy Brady, Writer said...

So very true Hope! I'm an order/structure kind of gal too, so the first draft is always the hardest for me to get through--it really does help to exercise that feeling of freedom though, doesn't it? :) We don't have enough of those free moments, so I try to soak up as much of them as I can.

Kathleen Ewing said...

Gosh, Hope, and I thought I was the only one who'd rather run naked through a cornfield than write a first draft of anything.

Hope Clark said...

Gosh, Kathleen, that's almost worse than my jalapeno stick in the eye! Yep, I'm at the very moment doing blog posts and answering email in lien of working on Chapter 28. I'm six chapters from the end of this book and can't make myself do it. Argh!

Luana Spinetti said...

Oh my, I run through the same kind of issue all the time when I write. I have this internal monitor that doesn't allow me for too much freedom. That's when a little relaxing exercise comes handy: slow but profound breathing, brain shut down, let only the creative side of it have a say. It often works, when I don't get more annoyance from my family members or the environment. I have not having my own room and having to write my beautiful yet annoying first drafts in the middle of acoustic pollution.

Benjamin Simms said...

First drafts are my nemesis because typically I nail it (or close to it) or it never reaches it's potential. And there you have it...my current stumbling block as a writer. Clearly every story is not going to get nailed down in the first draft, so I've got to figure out how to move on to round two.

Mischievous Angel said...

The day I pulled out my first draft novel and a friend told me what I needed to do to make it not skeletal, I started going back over and over, instead oft going on. First drafts are supposed to be skeletal. That way the story is out and we can fill in the details later. I just need to talk myself into finishing that novel.

Benjamin Simms said...

Not sure I agree with Mischievous Angel. For me, I can make up stories all day long. Unless it's simply a bad story, "filling in the details" is the difference in the end result. There have been millions of portraits of women. The details are what made the Mona Lisa.

Valerie Stasik said...

I'm struggling with this now, Hope. I'd attended a mini-workshop on revising writing that reminded me that first drafts should go quickly and, yes, be sloppy--a right brained, not left brained function. My own style, however, has been more left brained. I usually do a pretty good job of planning in advance with character backgrounds, plot maps, character arcs, etc. (They don't hold me back.) When I begin drafting, my left brain tends to stay around and urges me to make changes as I draft. I've tried just writing through without stopping. I can do it. However, I'm part of a writing group that expects fresh mss every two weeks. So, I'm back to letting "Lefty" assist me a little. I still make notes for later when I get ideas about changes to earlier scenes. So, right now, I'm comfortable doing it this way. I admire your writing through the night. I used to be able to do that, but these days, my body rebels if I don't take better car of it.

Thanks for sharing your journey,
Valerie Stasik