: views from the Hill

Saturday, April 24, 2004

First draft done!

Wrote 2500 words today and finished the first draft. Yippee!

Judy Greber said something that struck me a month or two ago. She was talking about people who endlessly polish their work and told the tale of a student who has been working on her crime novel for ten years. The student keeps "polishing" what she's already written instead of carrying on with the story and finishing the book. So as a result, Judy pointed out, the writer not only doesn't have a polished book, she doesn't have any book at all!

You talking to me, Judy? I wanted to ask. I took her words to heart and decided the new rule was no more polishing the already written stuff. I really needed to finish the first draft and have something concrete to work on, to shape into something I wouldn't be embarassed to show to my crime writing "Where's the book, Sal" buddies.

I needed to get on with it and have a finished first draft, maybe not a masterpiece, but at least a book with a start, middle and finish. Nora Roberts once said, "I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank one." I needed a first draft to fix, not an unfinished story.

I gave myself a deadline a couple weeks ago. First draft finished by April 30th. Ready, set, now!

Deciding not to polish up as I wrote threw a big spanner in the works, though. My polishing turned out to be a type of writing exercise, a warm up, albeit one that was counterproductive because it delayed the ultimate wrapup of the work.

Diving in cold where I'd left off wasn't working. As a result, I wasn't working on the book at all, just thinking about it, puzzling about it, wondering how to wrap up the ends, so I could finish the first draft.

What to do. What to do.

I tried this and that and writing of other sorts. Slowly, I weaned myself of the need to polish what went before before I could begin something fresh.

Today, his nibs is recuperating and eating salmon and asparagus for lunch instead of soup and crackers but he's still tired and in pain and not feeling much like walking hither and yon, so I settled in for the weekend and focused on finishing the never-finished, always "in process" first draft. Now.

After much up and down and snip some basil for the salmon and sweep the floor or maybe I should finish the column that's due or e-mail my dad, I sat down in my favorite corner of the sofa with the laptop, away from the lure of the 'net, and wrote 2500 crappy words to finally finish the first draft.

75K words with a beginning, middle, end, a mystery, a crime, a denouement.

Crappy words, mind you. The words need work, so now on to the next step -- phixing the draft -- but first, to write the column.