Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I won, and I'm sorry

I've recognised a pattern in my writing arc. First drafts are exciting things, full of discovery and exploration and free of the onus to make things perfect. First drafts are great fun. I'm all for writing first drafts.

Finishing a first draft is not so fun, as it heralds the next stage in the process, namely: unbreaking the story I've laid out.

My goodness but I do revision rage like I've been doing ice for three days straight and then decided to snort dried chilli. I hate the story, and the story hates me. It's clawing my eyes out with irregular rhythms and logic flaws and continuity errors and motivational absences and thematic incontinence, and I'm slashing its guts out with a red pen, and every session we cut and cut and cut away at each other, until each of us is in a corner drinking and/or crying and waiting for the other to clean up the blood.

(This could be why I have so many first drafts...)

And then, sparklemagicmoment! The story unbreaks. And we love each other once again.

To a point.

It's exhausting (like sex). And when it works, immensely satisfying (not at all like sex).

I'm feeling pretty satisfied right now. This particular story put up an enormous fight. The first drafts - and there were a ridiculous three and a half of them - were about as fun something that really isn't fun and is actually quite excruciating. Not only did I have to navigate revision rage, but I had to deal with the fact that the subject itself was an emotional block I wasn't aware I had. The deadline meant I had to process twenty-seven years of suppressed "I am a freak poooor meeee!" in a couple of months, and find something to say about it, specifically, something small enough to fit in a short story, and then turn it into a short story that didn't suck.

I don't know if I managed the last point. I don't know if I managed the second last point, or the second point, or any of those points. To be honest, I don't care.

The story is sent. It may not be accepted. It may never be published, and I don't care. It feels right to me, and in this case, having merely completed it is an enormous triumph. I'm standing here on the field of victory, with the story dead at my feet, blood on my hands, and the knowledge that I could do it and I did do it.

Thank you, Gillian, for opening a can full of worms. The fight was worth it.

(Now no one ask me to write to a theme ever again.)


  1. Congrats with the story!

  2. Is that this story? Awesome. Victorious parade through Rome with your defeated enemies in chains possibly inappropriate given the theme, but still totally earned.

  3. Your description of first drafts made me remember Terry Pratchett telling a similar thing once at a booksigning. He said that the only way he managed to get through the next phases was to promise himself that when he finished, he'd be allowed to immediately start in on a new _fun_ first draft.

    Anyway, I am glad you emerged victoriously. I really hope I'll get a chance to read this story someday.

    Now go and do something nice for yourself!

  4. Break out the Bolly!
    Bask in the glow of a hard job done well. Bask like a basking shark...

    Now it only remains for you to answer:
    What is your name? What is your quest? What is your favourite colour?

  5. Yep, that story. Fingers crossed it doesn't fall apart in edits.

    Tessa! I see the Holy Grail! Black-noAAAAAAUUUUUUGH