Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Not At All Like a Husky


If it’s Friday, then it’s time to confess. Thus: this week I wrote 3,000 words, bringing the total achingly close to 60,000. I imagine the final total of this first draft will be somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 words. I am without doubt in the last third of the story.

I am reading Anne Lamott’s superb Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. One of her chapters is entitled Shitty First Drafts, and here she says:

Very few writers know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies in the snow … We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid.

Well said, Anne. This week, my writing didn’t bound like a husky; it plodded like a tortoise.

Another useful thing I found in this chapter, is this:

Almost all writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.

A third tip in the chapter is about quelling the voices. I’ve been doing that, shutting out the “How can you presume?” and the “This is shit” and the “Who wants to read that?”. I’ve been ignoring them and plodding onwards.

My goal for this week is to finish Chapter Nine – whatever it takes, husky or tortoise.

Addendum: Two important birthdays today – my stepbrother M, and Madiba. Happy birthday to both of you! M, you don’t appear in my novel, but Madiba you do. Thank you for being an inspiration to millions – you are definitely a husky.

Photo from AFP

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

13 thoughts on “Not At All Like a Husky

  1. My goodness me that sounds like a wonderful book – and Anne Lamott’s sounds pretty interesting too! 🙂 Seriously, I think I ought to read the Lamott – it sounds most encouraging. And to get any writing done in a week is an achievement, Charlotte. I’d be thrilled with 3,000 words right now!

  2. Pingback: today is your birthday

  3. Charlotte, I am still in awe of anyone who can write an actual book. I remember the pains of writing a 1000-word essay! YOU ROCK!

  4. Today is my yoga guru Pattabhi Jois’ birthday as well – it is Guru Purnima day in India, a very auspicious day!

    I love love love “Bird by Bird.” I still think about her “one-inch” window all the time.

  5. I was just moving some of the tower of books on top of one bookcase and placing in another. Really, there were so many I had forgotten I even had some of them — and almost all of them have not been read yet. Near the bottom of the stack was Bird by Bird, an autographed copy no less, that I picked up at a reading Lamotte did over a year ago. I had just decided that I needed to read this next!

  6. You go girl! As you say, two thirds into the b oo, the whole tortoise/hare (or husky!) debate becomes irrelevant – you just have to keep moving towards the conclusion at whatever speed works for you. The Bird by Bird book sounds fascinating – I must try and get hold of a copy.

  7. If I bound along like a husky it is because I am running away from my writing! But your post gives me hope that I will get there – even to the start-line of something worthwhile to write rather than Belgian waffle. The more I hear about your novel the more I like it. And I can get it signed too. Well done to you, talented Charlotte.

  8. I love what Anne Lamott says about perfectionism. Her words could have been written for me. Until I read Bird by Bird I’d been trying to convince myself that my perfectionism was a writing strength but she made me realise that it was crippling me. Saying that, I’ve yet to crack the perfectionism habit… at least I’m aware of it though! I agree with you about quelling those voices.

    Mind you, it sounds as if you’re steaming ahead! You’re doing loads better than me. I’ve no idea what draft I’m on but I’m limping all the way.

  9. Love Bird by Bird – love it , and hearing you are in the final third is the kick in the butt I need, although I am only in the middle of my own..I’m a little jealous, frankly, but mostly in awe!

  10. I love that quote about first drafts… ’cause I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time, too. And I like to think of down drafts and up drafts, good way of looking at it, takes some of the (enormous) pressure off. I’m excited for you… in the last third… you’re so close, you can probably just see a peek of the end. An exhilarating time in a first draft to be sure!

  11. I don’t know about tortoises “plodding”! Three were recently introduced into my life and with a hot sun shining and they lift their shells of the ground and fairly go some. One minute they’re in the garden and the next they are half way up the lane like a determined two year old. A tortoise at full trundle is an impressive sight indeed.

    You are right though, sometimes the only way to keep going is. to. keep. going.

    Good luck


  12. This is the first time I’ve heard of Bird by Bird but I think Anne Lamont has some great wisdom on both writing and life. I’m excited to check out this book.

  13. I might need to have that book. I just finished the first draft of my book (is shorter than yours – second draft should end up at about 70,000 words) and it was such a good feeling. It’s so good to get it down as you say so I can go in and really make it work now. And yes, some days are such plod days.

    I’m sure the final third will be a cracker! Go girl! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s