Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rewriting – an anecdote

First drafts. Generally, when I write a first draft, I don’t want or expect it to be perfect. I like to see some of the real story buried in there somewhere, a shape I can work with, some vague form of my original vision. But now I’m almost finished with the fourth rewrite of my novel Shatterbox, and it’s still not there.

I’ve stuck with it all this time because I know it’s a good story. Perhaps a great story. And in the process, I think I’ve come to look at rewrites differently.

I’ve heard people say that the first draft is for getting ideas down on paper, and later drafts are for molding the actual story. That’s what I did for this novel. My current rewrite is a swarm of ideas, possibilities, and continuity issues. I feel like someone went shopping for all the paint they could find, and went crazy with it. It’s a mess. It’s an exhausting mess. But at least I began painting.

Previous drafts have been all about choosing my brushes and gathering the colors. This time, I cracked open the cans and started smearing stuff around. I was hoping to find the shape, but dangit, it’s out there.

I’ve experimented as much as I can. I’ve dumped all the paint and I’ve mushed it around. I’ve gotten out all my ideas. Now it’s time to begin gathering the pieces, sorting through what works, and what doesn’t. When I’m done I may actually see the real shape of my novel. I don’t think it will be pretty, but it will be a good prototype.

This has been a tough time for me with this novel, and I’m anxious to hear what you guys think – have you ever gone through this before? Is it good to view this as a time of creative-unfettering, or am I just lying to myself, finding more excuses to keep rewriting?

 

-Creative A 


On a sidenote, I wanted to apologize for not posting last Wednesday. We had some bad weather and the internet was down for a couple of days. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

11 comments:

Janet said...

I don't like that philosophy for first drafts. It played some nasty tricks on me. I find it too hard to rewrite something that massively. I'd rather make an extensive outline or blueprint or timeline or whatever first and then write a relatively clean draft. But perhaps that's just me.

David Isaak said...

What I'm beginning to think is not only that every writer is different, but that every book is different.

Stephen Koch has an interesting piece, though: If you write fast first drafts, then you should take a long time rewriting (and if you write slow first drafts, you should do a high-speed rewrite).

Creative A said...

Janet: that's what scares me. Massive rewrites have never worked for me. But this is the only method that I can actually write by. If I try anything else, then the story never happens. It's an uncomfortable position to be stuck in. I really, really admire those people that write a clean first draft. I wish I could.

Janet said...

David, that makes a lot of sense to me. Somewhere along the line you've got to spend some time on the thing, and where that somewhere is can be variable.

Janet said...

CA, I did say "relatively". ;o)

Creative A said...

David: that's something I've wondered before, too. I used to think I had this method that worked very well for me, but then it kept changing a little with each novel, and then it began changing massively with each novel. It was sort of scary for a while.

I like Stephen Koch's thought, though. From what I've heard, that seems to be the way things work.

Creative A said...

Who cares about relatively? If I'm going to write a clean first draft, I want it to sparkle! ;)

Janet said...

Don't we all? Do we struggle with perfectionism? Not at all, why do you ask?

Creative A said...

Yeah. I should change the header for this blog:
"Learning to beat yourself up, because you all suck, ha ha."

That would really boost people's spirits.

Unfocused Me said...

I wrote the first draft of my first novel with very little planning. Now I'm in the revision process, and it's becoming very painful.

I've just started thinking about my second novel, and this time I'm using the "snowflake method" to outline in it and plan it out in detail before I start writing. I've already put more effort into planning ahead for this project than I did during the entire first draft of my previous novel. I hope & expect that the result will be a first draft that may not be sparkly clean but will at least avoid the massive structural problems (does the middle sag? Nope - it's just a great big hole!) of my first.

Good luck with the revisions.

Creative A said...

Hey Unfocused Me, thanks for commenting. I can really relate. I usually struggle with my endings the most, but this always seems to originate from from a problem in the middle.

I've heard about the snowflake method quite a lot; many people champion it, so hopefully it will work for you. It's a little too much outlining for me, so I storyboard. That seems to be the single method that actually balances out my needs.

Good luck with your next novel :)

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