Wednesday, 3 July 2013
IWSG #4 - On the perils of first-drafting
It's time for another IWSG post, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh! Today's co-hosts are Nancy Thompson, Mark Koopmans, and Heather Gardner!
Today I'm going to talk about that moment that always hits around the 1/3 mark of a first draft, which I call the "arghwhatthehellamIdoing?" phase, or "Ican'ttellifthisbookisworkingsendhelpnow!", and involves a lot of flailing around and uncertainty and physically having to force myself to stay put in my desk chair and Just. Write.
I'm currently reaching that stage now with the first draft of Darkworld Book 4, and despite this being the eighth (!) first draft of a novel I've written (counting the three books I abandoned after the first draft stage), I still get stuck at the same point. Every single time. It's because when you start a draft, it's an adventure. You're caught up in the thrill of a new project, the sheer awesomeness of getting words on paper and creating a new world. But inevitably, like after a caffeine high, there comes the inevitable CRASH (as a diet coke addict, I can attest to this). Suddenly, the self-doubt demons are all whispering to you at once that the project is doomed to failure, that you're heading in the wrong direction.
This even happens when I outline the whole book (I generally try to have a rough outline with key plot points marked out so I know where I'm going). It's that "I'm actually trying to write a BOOK" moment, when it's not the beginning of a draft but actually, roughly, trying to take the shape of a full novel. But it's not ready yet. I tend to edit as I go along despite knowing I can't fix all the problems, which probably doesn't help. My feeble excuse is that I have OCD and can't leave well enough alone. I'm a perfectionist, and my first drafts tend to be the equivalent of third/fourth drafts. It's worth it in the end, but when I'm in the middle of it and caught up in all the tangled plotlines and confusing details, it feels like trying to navigate my way through a foggy quagmire. And my sense of direction is appalling! I think it's partly a confidence issue - the fear that all the projects I've finished were flukes and that I've suddenly lost the ability to write a novel.
And then this week I read this awesome blog post from Victoria Schwab which describes EXACTLY what I'm going through right now. So it's reassuring to see that it isn't just me, and even established authors have trouble with first drafts! Even when you have a publishing contract, even when you have an agent, the first draft of a new project always attempts to beat you down. But don't let it. Keep writing, and some day, it'll all click into place. It does for me - every time.
So keep writing.