I was reading Taryn Albrights's blog, an interview with Realm Lovejoy. I was really struck by this question, and RL's answer to it:
What is your writing process? Fast/slow drafting? A specific time of day? Planning/pantsing?Typical interview question, right? But I couldn't get this paragraph out of my head. I kept coming back to it, and I must have read it thirty times throughout the day.
I am fast with first drafts but take numerous revision cycles to get the story just right. When I am first drafting, I can write anytime of the day, but with revising, morning and day time works best so that I can really focus. I plan as much as possible inside my notebook. Often times, I plan the most during the second and third draft to really solidify the story. For the first draft, it's mostly exploring, so it's a balance of planning and allowing discoveries to happen naturally.
I am constantly struggling with how shitty my first drafts are. It's ridiculous, and debilitating, and embarrassing. I know they aren't nearly as bad as I think they are, and yet that means nothing. On every single page of my notebook, I have shouty messages scrawled at the top to get myself out of my own head and to focus on the story.
IT WON'T BE EASIER TOMORROW.
THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH.
SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND WRITE 500 WORDS.
The language gets much more colorful, and usually angrier the longer I have been sitting. People in cafes must think I'm insane.
And yet, here is permission to do what I am so afraid of doing: I plan the most during the second and third draft to really solidify the story. I don't need to know what's going to happen from the beginning. It can grow, and slowly shape itself, until I have a complete story. Once I have a Point A and a Point B, I can change the arc, play with things, make it WORK.
It doesn't need to work at the very beginning. It doesn't need to tie together. How often has my initial outline stayed consistent during the first draft? Never. So why do I expect the initial draft to be perfect?
I don't know. A holdover from college, where all my papers were one and done? I need to stop thinking this way. All my college papers sucked.
(Wrong. I wrote a persuasive essay on why Pluto should stay a planet. It fucking rocked. It wasn't based on scientific fact, I'm pretty sure I got the ninja turtles involved, and I wrote it from 2am-7am the morning it was due because I fell asleep and it was probably the most relaxing, wonderful time to write anything. I was so proud of that paper. And then my professor never returned it because we were freshman and he had More Important Things to grade, so he just gave everyone in the class an A.)
(And then a year after graduating, we ran into him in a dive bar in Chinatown of Washington, D. C., playing pool. It was so weird. But that's another story.)
(But seriously, all my other papers sucked.)
Maybe that's why fiction is so hard to write. Because unlike my college assignments (I'm sorry to say), I actually really care about this. I'm invested in these characters because they are mine, and they are worth something. But I need the words on the page to reflect that. I know how the characters make each other burn inside, but it's so difficult to put it into words.
Well, it doesn't have to burn from the beginning, either. Have some faith, Gina. Keep writing. Then keep rewriting. Change things until you know what you need and can say it coherently.
Until then, finish.