Monday, April 2, 2012

Pour a little salt we were never here

One of my goals for this Spring Break is to get a really large chunk of words down on the current book in progress, enough so that even if I don't have a zero draft by the time classes start up again next week, I'll be close. 


The thing is, I'm crap at first drafts.


That's not false modesty, it's just accurate. It's something I've learned to be okay with. I wasn't always, and believe me, my writing process is a lot more mentally healthy now that I've given myself permission to be rubbish the first time around so that I can get it right later.


I mean, this draft. There's a major plot point, that's been there from the beginning - it's the opening event! - and I've now resolved it, and I still haven't figured out how it happened in the first place. This morning's shower was the first time that I started to have a clue. There's a character who has been written in, and written out, and written back in under a new name, and is now probably going to come back in under his own name and require a double in the other Court. Another character has been waiting just off the page, as have the ceiling crocodiles. Major alliances have changed, and I suspect there is still one more traitor to be found. Because this is alt-history, and alt-history at a pivot point, there are major historical threads I have to decide whether to use or ignore. And once I'm using them, I need to decide exactly how historical to keep them.


I have a lot of bracket notes, my notebooks are swollen with post-its, and there are so many scenes that are simply sketches or conversations in white rooms that I strongly suspect the zero draft (of what is an epic fantasy, mind you) is going to come in at about 50K. Which is approximately the length of one of GRRM's prologues.


I'm oddly fine with this. (Which is one of the ways I know I'm close to having a draft. The voice of the Dreaded Middle -  the one that constantly reminds you that this is flat, and boring, and overdone, and that you should do everyone a favor and stop writing now - has been replaced by the downhill careen of Explosions and Resolutions.) Because while I know I'm not great at writing the zero draft, I am good at thinking it. So I know that the things I couldn't quite get down on paper are actually floating around somewhere in my brain. And I am great at revision.


But you don't get to revise until there are words on the page.

9 comments:

  1. So why don't you start with a two paragraphs draft and then EPIC revise it? :-)

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  2. If I thought it would work, I would.

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  3. I'm feeling good about my Zero Draft, too! It's easy to be terrified by the brackets and muddledness, but I think practice works some of the terror out.

    I am still laughing about the 50K GRRM prologue.

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    1. Practice definitely works some of the terror out. I never could have written so loosely the first time I tried to write a novel.

      Glad you're feeling good about yours, too.

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  4. First of all, this is so much like MY zero drafts. I can relate to the whole of this post, except for the part where you're okay with it. I mean, I'm so glad that *you're* okay with it! :) But I'm still not okay with this apparently being my process - so far, on most of my books. I keep trying to change it in the hopes of writing less skeletal, all-over-the-place drafts, and maybe I will one day. But not on any of my current projects, that's for sure!

    Secondly, maybe you could join my SpringKazNo writing 'thing' to help you along with your draft. I am posting an update tomorrow. It's supposed to start on April 1st, but I can't start until Thursday due to finishing off a rewrite.

    Cheers,
    Kaz

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    1. I am definitely going to take a look at your SpringKazNo. My difficulty is working around the day job - I have a week off from teaching now, but then I have to finish out the semester, which makes scheduling odd. But I will look!

      Good luck with your deadline.

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    2. No pressure at all!

      I will probably be getting copyedits on a long manuscript during April and that's going to include heavy changes, so I guess I could consider that *my* day job. Sort of. :) But I'm desperate to finish a half-written rough draft of an on-spec book. I've (foolishly?) promised my agent it will be in her inbox at the end of April. eep! I have so much to juggle (as do we all) that I thought the KazNo thing would help me to focus. And here I am not even started yet!

      Whatever you decide, I wish you a productive break.

      Kaz

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  5. I don't know what format you plan for your novel, but at least for ebooks I wouldn't worry about the 50k word count. One of the beauties of ebooks is that you can simply write the story to the length needed to tell it--without worrying about hitting some specific word count.

    Personally, I'd love to read a lean, fast moving, epic fantasy. Why do so many of them have to be bloated with unnecessary detail?

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  6. "Which is approximately the length of one of GRRM's prologues." That made me laugh out loud.

    My zero drafts are usually craptastic. From zero to the current revision, I've turned one character a traitor, changed a major plot point to add more tension, realized I killed the wrong character, and I'm now trying to decide if I should remove one character altogether. I'm also terrified that I might need to get this large scene in the middle.

    Hearing how much your details have changed? That makes me feel better. I also LOVE the fact that you're writing an epic fantasy.

    Anyway, I'll be over here, cheering you on, should you need it. :-)

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