Posted by: oneyearbook | June 5, 2009

Progress report

What can I say? I was quite disappointed with the first draft. As my boyfriend pointed out, I should have expected this; I purposefully chose the route of barrelling through rather than writing a more thoughtful draft, and it was I who chanted the mantra of “shitty first draft.”

Yes, I suppose, but I’d hoped there be more in it that I wanted to keep! But there is much to be learned from any setback, and I am lucky to have the time to consider how to move forward, and then implement that plan, once I’ve decided.

A photograph of how it felt to realize that the first draft was not what I hoped

A photograph of how it felt to realize that the first draft was not what I hoped

My first reaction after the first readthrough was to whine about it; if I was a character in a novel, the author would write of me, “She enjoyed a good wallow in self-pity as a pig enjoyed his in the mud.” After that phase was over, it was time for reflection, and re-reading. The re-reading has been combined with a sort-of edit, in which I have been smoothing out inconsistencies – everything has been switched around so that the pronouns are correct (rather than switching between first-person and third all the time) and so that the whole book is written in the past tense. I have a bad habit of doing most of my writing in the present tense and then finding that it weakens the whole thing. Some people are masters of the present tense, but I do not think I am one of them, at this point.

These re-reads have definitely buoyed me up; there is more there to keep than I had previously thought. I think there were some lessons learned, as well: one, I really should have written the book in order. I believed I could avoid this because I was going to interlace the elements together in a non-chronological format – but it still would have been good, for divining character and plot arcs, to write it chronologically. I also should have spent more time getting to know the characters; a number of important ones are just ciphers (and boring ciphers at that) at this point.

For the last week I have set myself an important task: regain my energy, my enthusiasm, for the project. Without any excitement it will hardly read with verve or vigour, and after the first re-read I lost that excitement. But since then a few new ideas, a new way of shaping the text, has come to me; and that alone, along with a stronger focus on one element of the plot, have given me the drive to go onwards. The wallowing is over, friends! Writing must continue.

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