Thursday, February 12, 2015

typing and weeping

How do you hammer out the first draft and have you ever participated in Nanowrimo?

I was a few books in before I heard of Nanowrimo and I was already superstitious about changing things in case the whole soufflé collapsed, so the answer to the second bit is "no".

About the first bit, though . . .

The ideal is 2000 words a day, 5 days a week, for 10 weeks, giving a 100K first draft in under a season. It doesn't always work out. More likely is 3000 confident words a day to start with, typed with brio and a song in the heart, then what my husband calls the Big Early Wobble, when I select four or more of the following remarks and combine them in any order:
  • I can't do this
  • This time it's real
  • I've never understood less about a story
  • I don't know who these characters are
  • There's no colour
  • It's too thin
  • This isn't a world
  • This has never happened before
  • I have never felt like this before
  • Why do you always tell me I always do this?
Neil counters with a handful chosen from among these rejoinders:
  • Yes, you have
  • Yes, pretty much word for word
  • Not just last time, every time
  • I bet it'll be okay
  • Why not write it and see if maybe it's okay
  • I honestly believe it might be okay
  • Yes, but I really think you have
  • Yes, you totally have, you crazy lunatic
But here's the thing. The book I'm writing right now is 57K words long after [trots over to calendar to count] 24 working days. Hey!

So now I have to decide between a. faking a late Big Early Wobble and b. doing without one altogether. Truth be told I'm worried that without the BEW the book won't be any good. I'm having a Midway Meta-Wobble.

But I think, all things considered, I'll just bash on, typing and weeping. I'm quite fond of some of the characters in this one - they make me laugh - and as well as that I'm not sure what's going to happen next and I'm interested to find out. In fact I stopped typing today at the end of a pretty torrid scene with the words [trots over to other computer to remind self]:

"The colour drained from D----'s face until she was candle-white and her lips were almost blue.
'What is it?' I asked her."

Right now, I have no idea and that's why I love being a pantser. I'd bet my morning coffee that when I sit down and start typing tomorrow I'll realise what it is and it'll be something hidden away in what I've already written, like an Easter egg, waiting to pop up in the story. It feels like magic.

Once I've written another three drafts, fixed the glitches, killed the stinky bits, smashed the Easter eggs and sprinkled the crumbs from beginning to end of the story, maybe some of it'll look a wee bit like magic too.


Paul D. Marks said...

Love these two, especially, Catriona:

--This has never happened before

--I have never felt like this before

Because, certainly, they have never happened before and never will again :)

Every time we start something or get to a certain point in it, we get that feeling, don't we? And then we want to quit, but somehow we never do.

RJ Harlick said...

All of the above. I'm a pantser too and go through all those ups and downs with each first draft. I am always amazed that all the bits and pieces eventually come together to make a story. It is indeed magic as I'm sure your next book will be, Catriona.

James Ziskin said...

I'm more of a running-and-tripping-with-my-pants-half-on writer. I work with a short outline and see what detours the plot takes along the way. The ending usually doesn't change, though. Lots of doubts along the way, gnashing of teeth, and obsessive daily word counts.

Great piece, Catriona!

Lori Rader-Day said...

I adore this, and you. And also Neil, even though I don't know him.

Art Taylor said...

Love this, Catriona! Thanks for keeping things in perspective (he says, getting ready for today's writing). :-)

Barb Ross said...

Oh, this is a relief to hear. Big Early Wobble, Late Middle Wobble. I am so there.

Robin Spano said...

Awesome!! You have nailed the writing experience perfectly.

Susan C Shea said...

I like the first draft work so much better than what I'm forcing myself to do now - moving scenes around, trying to remember who saw what when, and does anybody know who this person is who once was introduced in chapter one and now sneaks in in chapter six?

Unknown said...

Catriona, Wonderful column. I identify being in the Big Early Wobble stage right now. So nice to hear from another pantser.

Unknown said...

Catriona, Wonderful column. I identify being in the Big Early Wobble stage right now. So nice to hear from another pantser.