A Week In the Life of a First Draft and Its Writer

PROLOGUE It's done!  Phew.  And hooray!  I did it.  I'm going to take a week or two off - well deserved, if I say so myself - and come back fresh.  Bang out those edits.  I can't wait to send it out - I love this story!

*Walks away, performs grooming and housecleaning rituals, cooks an actual meal or two.  Calls parents, sisters and others who may think she's dropped dead.*

 

TEN DAYS LATER....

DAY 1, MORNINGMood: excited.

*Rubs hands, stares eagerly at booting computer*  So psyched to get back to this manuscript!  I know it needs some work, but its going to be AWESOME when I clean it up.  My best yet.

3 HOURS LATER.  Mood: despair.

Oh my god, this is utter crap.  It doesn't even make sense.  What am I trying to say?  The dialogue is unbelievable.  This character has no voice.  What is this story even ABOUT?  I don't think this is salvagable.  Would it be better to just scrap it?  But I don't have another story idea right now.  Let me keep reading.  My drafts always start out slow and come together a few chapters in.  The writing and plot will get better.

They don't.

This is the worst manuscript I've ever written.

*Shuts off computer with complete certainty I will never, ever sell another book.*

 

DAY 2Mood: unhappy determination.

I can't give up.  I spent months writing this manuscript.  Plus, its still a good idea.  There has to be a way to fix it.

*Wastes a few hours trying different narrative styles*

*Pokes at the first chapter a little.*

Draft still sucks.

*Shuts off computer in despair.*

 

DAY 3Mood: trying to be rational.

*Hunts down 9 Step Plotting chart on another writer's website.  Tries mapping out the story.*

Turning points are weak and the whole first third of the novel unnecessary.

*Shuts off computer and takes a nap.*

 

DAY 4Mood: depressed.

*Avoids manuscript.  Answers emails and stalks Twitter instead.  Remembers: I don't have to write books to be a worthwhile human.  Plays Legos with kids.*

 

DAY 5Mood: slightly less depressed.  Only slightly.

Have been thinking about this manuscript.  It's not a story of a group of friends.  Its a story of two boys and how their lives are entwined.  And how this event sets in motion stuff that's been brewing for a long time.  The other characters who feel flat and have sucky dialogue aren't that important.  They need to be more developed, but they don't need more airtime and definitely shouldn't be narrating any part of the story.

*Jots down a few notes.*

 

DAY 6Mood: work-minded.  Not optimistic or desperate or depressed or determined.  

Revising Chapter 1 with new plot focus in mind.  Lots of this is going to be cut.  Whole chapters ahead will be deleted and others added.  This manuscript needs a TON of work.  But it's not going to write itself...

 

DAY 7Mood: see Day 6.

*Has ephiphany that this is how books get written: you move past the high- and low-flying emotions to the recognition that this is a job and jobs require work - which isn't always fun or happy or inspired.  And you make a deal with yourself that you're going to do that work, even if it means re-writing humongous parts of your manuscript and patiently working though its problems.*

Well, duh.  Didn't you learn that with the last book you wrote?

*Takes a few minutes to blog about it anyway*

*Begins Chapter 2.*