clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Rocky Road to Love

George and Ira penned today's title in "They Can't Take That Away From Me" in 1937. I'm partial to the Billie Holiday version.

I was talking with a friend a couple weeks back who confessed that somewhere along the way in their first drafts, they fall out of love with the book and abandon it. They labeled themselves a "serial starting novelist."

I kept my teeth closed because they didn't ask for advice and as writers, we hate unsolicited advice. Put it on a blog instead!

My favorite old salt is: "I want to see my book on the NYT Bestseller list."

The retort: "Write a good book which people buy."

Hardly helpful.

I just wanted to confess that I fall out of love with the WIP in every single draft. I think most writers feel the same.

The difference between published and stuck under a table-leg in the dining room is in the twin keys of completion first and revision second.

I don't get it right in the first draft. I don't get it right in the second. I'm fixing. I'm resolving. I'm striving.

Everyone does this.

Professional writers who master their craft make fewer omissions and require fewer revision cycles than we aspiring authors. They've managed to coordinate conflict, characterization, voice, point-of-view, and premise such that their first drafts are economically rendered.


I have a character who is wandering. His driven desire is not evident from page one of the story and he's being driven forward by events rather than actively driving events forward. That's fine when the character is someone to whom life happens and the reader knows how the daily blows are crushing their wishes and desires.

The reader knows their wishes and desires through word and action.

My reader today does not know "why" or "what" my protagonist wants. I know it. I haven't got it clear enough in the draft.

That's why it is a draft.

Yes, I am displeased when I look at the work objectively. Why continue then?

I have to tell myself the story. It's how I work.

When I know the princess is going to fix roast dragon at the end of the story and the knight is going to stay home scrubbing floors and raising children, then I can do a better job of incorporating her heart's desire of regaining the throne of Bearland.

Until I know she's going to go conquer Bearland and how's she's going to resolve role obstacles with her traditional role minded rescuer, I can't focus on her motivations and desires. It isn't how I think.

Better characters evolve in the second draft for me given I know the plot structure from what I've been able to actually write rather than what I outlined.

We all plan things that we cannot pull off as well as a reader might desire right there on the page. These weaknesses becomes transformed on the fly to some other strength and the plan then conforms to reality in the execution. In. The. Drafts.

Write to complete. Make the mess, identify the problems, fix them in subsequent revisions whether you work full draft or in sectional replacement.

You are not going to love the story with which you begin after you grimy little hands were on it.

You love the story it became after nights of revision, angst, doubt, inspiration, and a whole lot of perspiration.

If you are my friend and read this, please know you are not going to love any first draft.

You might love something about it, but you'll not love the execution until this is about your twelfth effort. AT that point, you're in a different league.

You don't have to love where it is now. You have to want to love what it is going to be and you alone have to trust you can get the work from one state to the other.

Please, try.

There are too few good books in one lifetime. There is always room for another.

The "good" shelf is nearly empty. Let's add one.


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