I’m thinking way ahead here, but bear with me. If I go ahead and work this out now, I may actually be able to get past the first draft for once. And I very definitely want to get past the first draft on this story. For the dynamics between Alexandra and Emily alone, I must write this story.
Not long after we moved into our new house, my husband handed me this blue three-ring binder with an inch-thick pile of paper neatly clipped into it. He said, “I promise I didn’t read it, but holy crap, did you write all that?” And I blushed and was like, “Yeah…* shy toe shuffle*” And now I’m sitting here in the basement, watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” on Netflix, eyeing that binder with a combination of horror, amusement, and fondness.
The thing in the binder is the manuscript from an old NaNoWriMo project that I wrote in…I don’t even know. 2006, I think? If I recall correctly, that particular one was 76,000 words and I was ever so proud at the time because in comparison to my other NaNo wins, that one is fairly epic. In fact, I’ve thought back to that piece many times since then, wondering if that was my writing peak, and worrying because I was only in my late 20s and what if that was my one big idea and I never come up with anything else omg why God why.
I have yet to reread it.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I have given it some superficial once-overs. I’ve gone through the file and been like, “Dude, this was cool. This was…less cool. Oh good God, what was I even thinking with this part?! Okay, this was awesome and needs to be expanded. Oooh…a theme!” I even recall one plot thread that left there in the heat of a NaNo word asplosion, then forgot where it was going afterward, which would probably end up being removed lest it become a plot hole big enough to swallow Optimus Prime. But I’ve never sat down and really read the story. I’ve never looked at it with an eye toward revision.
I could go on and on about why I’ve avoided that rewrite – for instance, that it was a fairly personal piece, not autobiographical or anything, just one with a high “get these feels off my chest” value that was more for me than for anyone else. But I think what it comes down to is this:
Rereading, and the inevitable rewrite that would follow said rereading, scares the bejeebus out of me.
To me, having done my biggest writings as NaNo projects, that first draft is usually the part that gives me the least trouble. I’ve got the basic storyline worked out, enough to give me the direction I need to keep my ADD from making the process impossible. I know my characters, minus the occasional side characters who become unexpected mains, but I don’t mind those. I have a basic idea of where I need to start and where I want to finish. Most important of all, I’ve given myself permission to be not-awesome. All I have to do is yack up the words. I don’t even have to worry about getting hung up on troublesome scenes that refuse to cooperate; I can scribble out a placeholder passage or just leave myself a note and come back to it later. I can even go outof order! For all the trouble I’ve had in the last few years with just getting the words out onto the page, the first draft is still the most forgiving, the least structured, and therefore – for me – the least scary (and consequently the least difficult to get through).
Rewriting is harder. Rewriting means I have to look at what I’ve just written and own the thing. It’s the part where I have to think about fixing all the plot holes and story inconsistencies and flesh out the characters and check the world building (a big weak spot of mine; I’m a terrible world builder, it’s why I haven’t written much sci-fi/fantasy in spite of my interest in the genres). It’s a little overwhelming, nothing I couldn’t work my way through, but overwhelming.
Unfortunately, it’s also the part where my biggest insecurity hits. It’s where I think, hey, this is where I should maybe have someone read this thing so I can get some feedback and oh my God, I have to SHOW THIS to actual PEOPLE?! At which point the stage fright kicks in and I hyperventilate and just kind of shut down and run away and end up losing the whole freaking thing. It’s frustrating as hell and is the reason I have trouble thinking of myself as a writer at all. Which makes it harder to write. Which means I write less. Which means I feel like a crappy writer who can’t write. Which means I don’t trust my ideas. Which means I don’t even try to write them. Which leads me to believe I can’t write. So I don’t. And next thing I know, boom! There’s that soul-shatteringly awful sneaky hate spiral that kept me from writing at all for years.
So, what does this mean for my Cranky Lady Supersoldier’s story, which I haven’t even written yet? What does it mean for later on, if I decide I want to actually publish something? It means that when I do come to Rewrite Time (which I WILL, by golly), I need to keep a few things in mind:
- Find people I trust absolutely, who will critique honestly, but kindly. (FYI: Husband is at the top of that list. <3)
- I know a ton of wonderful, talented writers. They are also wonderful people and I should not be afraid of them. I should UTILIZE THEM.
- So I can’t seem to discuss my storyline face to face. Whatever, it’s 2012. Hello, email! (Addendum: Suck it up and hit Send.)
- It is not the end of the world if someone tells me something doesn’t work.
- If someone tells me something is good, it’s okay to take such comments as encouragement instead of fretting that they’re just being nice because they’re my friend and they like me. I trust that anyone I ask to be my beta wouldn’t tell me they liked my stuff unless they actually meant it.
- Whatever else I might figure out when I actually get to the rewrite.
- Any advice you all who’ve gotten all the way to a final draft might have
In other words: Stop being paranoid, trust myself, trust my (eventual) readers, and learn to love the rewrite instead of letting it intimidate me.