Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB
How many partial books have you written? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s FAR too many. If it’s not a baker’s dozen, it’s not far from that. Why???
A big part of it: a lesson needed to be learned with the first one, but it just didn’t happen. The lesson was this: write your novel beginning to end without going back and starting again.
My problem: I taught in Utah’s high schools and colleges for many years. My “editor” was always “on.” So, a very few years into that career that pesky woman was pretty entrenched. She was ALWAYS “there” and paying attention. I’d written a ton of class assignments all through high school and college. Probably sometime during college, I began realizing I actually LIKED writing. Wait. I probably knew that in high school. No, no . . . go back farther: I was writing “plays” (I’d probably refer to them now as “skits”) in elementary school. A friend and I wrote The Terrible Twins productions. Then we cast them and put them on in front of the class (the two of US were the “twins,” of course). For “extra credit” . . . what’s not to like?
They were short enough, and my “editor” was like Sleeping Beauty — totally unconscious as to what was going on. So I could “start over” as many times as I wanted. No harm done. So what if new, different characters showed up in every “draft”. It only took a little while to write it over again. And it was fun.
Bad habits! That’s what I got besides extra credit.
Here’s the thing: I now have several “books” in various stages of “not done.” And it’s a lot of work to get my head back into something I started while I was in college. Wait. I don’t think any of them are quite THAT old. But several are years and years old.
Knowing I had all those partials hiding in boxes, computer innards, on discs of various sorts, a past article in the Writer’s Digest (online, Oct. 9, 2013) caught my eye: “7 Reasons to Write an Entire First Draft Before Going Back to the Beginning,” by guest columnist Martha Alderson, aka the Plot Whisperer.
Maybe she knows something I have yet to learn! Or, at the very least, she is succinctly saying what I believe in, but don’t practice:
- Allow yourself to write a ROUGH first draft beginning to end: you’ll actually finish a draft all the way through!
- Until you write the end, you haven’t a clear grasp of what comes earlier.
- You accomplish what you set out to do (I could even check it off my TO DO list . . . I love to check things off!)
- Once you have a skeleton in place, you can stand back and “see” your story in an entirely new way. (I’m going to pull those old skeletons out of my closet. Well, my partial, buried “bones” of a story — and try to string a full skeleton together. Looking at that, standing there on his/her own, maybe I’ll be able to see what’s missing.)
- Until you write the entire story, you don’t know the end. Until you write “the end” — the climax — you don’t know what belongs in the beginning.
- The less time you devote to perfection in the first draft or two the less painful the future cuts and revisions will be. Hundreds of invested hours spent on “perfecting” the 35-100 pages you may need to cut won’t be there to haunt you. You won’t be as emotionally attached to every “beautiful word.”
- The major benefit of writing a terrible, no good, very bad draft: it can ONLY GET BETTER from there!
This Martha Alderson seems to know what she’s talking about: she’s written several books on writing: The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing, The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help you Create Compelling Stories (a companion workbook to:) The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, and Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple. I may have to check one or two of those out!
What a concept! Excuse me. I need to go resurrect some old bones.
See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!