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