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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Embrace the Junk

So...do you have any idea where I'm going with this post? No, I'm not talking about the junk you find in your house (and yes, my house is full of junk). And I'm not talking about junk mail, either. I'm all about the writerly kind of junk. Ya know, the stuff that you painstakingly write each day. The stuff that seems to be brilliant prose as it flows from your fingertips, then shockingly turns to utter crap overnight. Sound familiar now?

What can you do about it? Is there any way to make that stuff come out right the first time?

The answer to that is a resounding no. Yeah, that's hard to hear. I know, it was hard for me. I was naive enough to think that if I took my time and carefully went over each chapter with a fine tooth comb before I sent it off to my CPs, then they would send it back with much love and accolades. Boy was I wrong!

It's taken me many, many months to figure this little bit of wisdom out for myself and I'm sure you've heard it, too. First drafts are going to suck. They are going to be crap. But they don't have to stay that way. That's what revisions are for. Now for me, I thought if I revised as I went, I could save myself a lot of time in the long run. (And I know a lot of you may be able to do that and that's great, but it has not worked for me.)

So what am I going to do now? I'm going to write straight through until this first draft is finished, and that means I have to embrace all of the junk that I will write. I'm finally at a point where I can accept that and not cringe, so my objective is to just get the story down and fix everything after the fact.

Because you can fix what's on paper, but you can't fix empty pages.

So what do you think? Embrace the crap and just get the first draft done? Or take it slow and steady, revising as you go? What works for you?

18 comments:

  1. I'm sure you know what I think. Your words almost exactly echo how I feel exactly. It's like we were separated at birth:D

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  2. Yes! First drafts suck. Always. It's kind of freeing to accept that.

    Good luck!

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  3. TOTALLY agree! First drafts are so much fun for me to write, because I don't worry. 'I'll fix that later' is very freeing! The second draft... that's the one that can be like pulling teeth.

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  4. Ugh. As I trudge through knee deep in revisions, it's hard to say exactly how I feel because I'm so tired of revisions.

    But overall I think Tina coaxed out my most prophetic quote yet. I'm going to suck my way to success. And no, that does not mean what it sounds like. :)

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  5. All first drafts are going to need work, but probably differing levels. When I write, I continually look at the motivation post-its I have stuck to my computer monitor screaming at me to just get down the bones, and not to write every minute detail of every moment of ever scene. Cuz that's how I roll... :-)

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  6. I have mixed feelings on this. I think the junk is at least better when you revise as you go and requires less work afterwards. On the other hand, there is something comforting about just getting to the end of the draft. I think I'll always be a little bit of both.

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  7. YES! This is how I made it through NaNoWriMo. Ignore the inner editor and just go for the draft :) I write much faster this way and better, I think, because I don't let myself stop and lose momentum. Good luck!!

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  8. I have drafts, but nothing polished. This time I will draft then polish. I have to do it that way or I'll never finish.

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  9. Well said! You can work your fingers numb trying to get it all right the first time, and still it won't be. I think there's a lot to be said for the miracle of time and distance from a manuscript. Always, when you go back to it, you find things that can improve, mistakes you made, no matter how hard you tried to avoid them, and ideas that you hadn't had the first time around. A publishable first draft is a myth. Once I embraced the junk (love that phrase, by the way!), I was able to pump straight through my first draft. I can write one in a matter of weeks. It's the editing of it that takes forever :P

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  10. I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I NEED to revise as I go, but I still seem to be farther ahead than most people when it comes to word count/writing speed. The stuff I send to my beta readers has been combed through, but not fully revised etc... And yet, most of the time they aren't pointing out that much *shrugs*

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  11. I'm with Susan and Natalie. I feel better about the process if I do a little smoothing as I go. But I also agree it's foolish to polish to a high sheen every word, when you often get to the end of the draft and discover some of the stuff you sweated over doesn't work plotwise at all and needs to be cut. THAT is agony.

    I guess I'm a "good enough for now" drafter.

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  12. I'm a total embrace the junk kind of girl!!! That's how I have been able to write well over 60K in a 4 week time span, not focusing on the crap/junk that I write but just getting the bare bones on paper, it feels good to watch the story evolve in front of you... editing I'll save for the editing and revision portion. Which happens to be after the first draft crap :)

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  13. I so feel you on this. This is exactly why I hate writing first drafts. I can't fix the empty pages. I can't get to the real story on empty pages. I'd much rather work with words on paper than nothing at all.

    So I just vomit up the first draft and try to clean up the splatters later on.

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  14. i think i'm definitely a revise-as-you-go kind of person -- maybe because i always want everything to be perfect. :-/ it tends to make the second draft much easier.

    on the other hand, i'm all for editing a ton of junk than trying to squeeze out words that just aren't there.

    hehe.

    great post!!

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  15. Just get it done! By the time you're finished you'll have thought of how you can make it better and the editing will go more smoothly. But first you have to force yourself to write... I definitely need some help in that department.

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  16. I agree that it is important to get it all out on the page before jumping to conclusions... in either direction. (Keep it or dump it.)

    Still, I have a hard time parting with paragraphs. You'll learn that about me. :)

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  17. I guess I embrace the junk to a point. I re-read the previous days efforts and fix the obvious stuff...the painful to admit you wrote stuff...and then move on quickly. It may slow me down a bit, but I sleep better at night. :)

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  18. Oh yeah! I hear ya girl!! Yes, embrace it. The draft I'm revising now was my NaNo one so it was easy to just write and not edit; I had to to make the deadline. Maybe that will help you too?

    Good luck - we've all been there - in fact I'm sure I'll be there again, and again, and again... ;o)

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