adverbs, dragons, first draft blues, permissive writing, showing and telling, this isn't about sex, trying to arrive at the end, What made me think I could write a novel anyway?, wondering what the end will be, word by word
There is an art to writing permissively – and I don’t mean sex scenes, although there is an art to that too – the act of letting go of every instinct towards perfection, on the quest for a finished first draft. I have been writing this week, and I have been struggling. I need to get this draft finished, this baggy, bulging behemoth of a first draft. And I’m almost there; just a few more chapters to write, the culmination of the story’s arc, its purpose. Except… except… as this damn thing’s evolved, it has changed, to the point where I no longer know how it will end. I know that certain threads will be tied up, and I know how they will be tied up, but that is not the same thing as an ending, or even The End-ing. So all I can do is keep moving forward, one word after another, and see where I end up.
But there’s worse. There are whole swathes of scenes where things are not shown, but told. Quelle horreur! There are adverbs galore, gallivanting merrily across the page. But there are also redeeming scenes, scenes where I remember being completely caught in the moment, visualising every detail, every gesture, every nuance, and capturing it all, word by word by word. There are scenes that quite frankly are utter rubbish. But I keep telling myself that it’s ok, it’ll come right just as long as I can get to the end of the First Draft. Permission, that’s the key for now, permission to do whatever it takes to arrive at the end, and The End.
Of course, I’ll be so much stricter with myself for the Second Draft. I’m looking forward already to Being Ruthless. All those lovely rewrites…
But then, there’ll be the Third Draft; cutting and trimming and surgically excising great swathes of dead wood that litter the text. Then I’ll have to master the art of Being Brutal: is there such a thing as literary masochism?
One draft at a time, one word at a time. That’s all I can do, for now. Even for the bits with dragons…