Friday, February 11, 2011

How Not To Write a First Draft

I'm in the dreaded middle of the first draft of a new novel. And I'm doing everything wrong. So if you want to succeed as an author, feel free to learn from my mistakes:

1. When your agent contacts you about your manuscript that she's submitting (the one you thought you were finished with), DO NOT come up with the perfect way to revise it now.

2. And whatever you do, DO NOT start that revision, even if you think it will only take a week or two.

3. DO NOT go to an incredible writing retreat where you'll learn so much about writing that you'll realize everything you've written so far in your first draft is complete dreck.

4. DO NOT meet talented and personable authors at said writing retreat and then go home and check all their books out of the library.

5. And absolutely, positively, DO NOT start reading their books.

6. DO NOT go to another event where a funny author whom you admire talks about what makes humorous picture books work.

7. And definitely DO NOT get inspired to write a picture book now.

8. When your husband asks how the writing is going, DO NOT tell him the terrible horrible truth, unless you want him to back up in fear, hide the sharp objects, and keep his distance from you for the rest of the evening/week/month.

9. If a special holiday is coming up, like Valentine's Day for example, DO NOT spend time creating the perfect gifts and cards for everyone in your family. Even if it makes you happy.

10. In other words, if you want to finish a first draft of a novel, DO NOT let life interfere.

I'm serious.

Your family doesn't really need you.

And you don't really need to enrich yourself as a writer, or a reader, or even as a human being.

I'm telling you, if you let life interfere with that first draft, you will never finish. Ever.

Well, maybe you will finish eventually.

But it will take you a long time. Longer than you expected. Longer than you want. And it will be harder than you ever imagined. Because writing is hard. There are no shortcuts. There is nothing quick and easy about it. And because life is complicated and funny and tragic and beautiful and busy, and if you're living it right, it will impact everything you do.

But. If you stick with your manuscript and work on it a little bit every day, no matter how long it takes you, no matter how much life interferes, at some point, you'll finish that first draft.

And then?

You can revise.


Beverly Patt said...

I was literally IN THE CAR, backing out of my driveway, to go see said admirable funny pb writer talk, when I thought, "If I go, I'm going to want to write a picture book. I have no business starting a picture book with two novels that need writing/revising."
And guilty, guilty, guilty, on meeting writers and checking out their books and that putting me into a tailspin!
Ok, back to finishing my novel!!!

Anonymous said...

Brenda, I absolutely loved this post. I laughed out loud, several times...especially at the "sharp objects" reference. It IS hard work, and it's reassuring to know that excellent writers like you find it hard, too. I thought it was just me. :)