So, I’ve just finished the first draft of a science fiction novel. I pantsed it (no outline, just flying by the seat of your pants and typing away). I put it in my drawer for 4 weeks, printed a hard copy, and sat down to read the sucker through.
Most of it was pretty horrible and inconsistent, yes; but beneath all of the word vomit I saw a speckle of hope. The book is actually trying to say something. There’s just a lot of bullshit in the way.
Something my improv teacher once said that was both gross and insightful was: “As improvisers, we take a shit with our mouth. We’re just lucky that we have the technique to make that shit pretty.”
I told you it was gross. But insightful too, ain’t it?
So instead of spending my time brooding about how I wanted to be a novelist and yet had nothing substantial on paper, I finally said “Fuck it”, sat down, and wrote 1,500 words a day until they became 98,190.
But now comes the hard part. What the hell do I do with these terrible 188 pages?
There are so many things wrong with my book: plot holes, inconsistencies, MAJOR inconsistencies (one character goes from man to woman with no warning; how did THAT happen?), characters that serve no purpose, scenes that don’t make sense, incredibly unbelievable situations, etc.
After reading the last word of the story, my heart sank. This kind of really sucks. Like, really sucks. BUT…. with a lot of work, it could be okay. Right? Heck, maybe even decent. If I put in the time and the effort to make it something beautiful and coherent, maybe it could even be considered good.
Isn’t the first draft just the beginning?
So even though my book is something I feel semi-ashamed of, I will now devote all of my time to researching, outlining, plotting, developing character, and other juicy tidbits of wisdom from editors like Cheryl Klein. If you write and would enjoy listening to a podcast instead of pop music in the car, check out Narrative Breakdown. It’s fantastic.
(Above is Ms. Klein’s suggested “bookmapping”. I’ll probably only keep 5% of my initial draft.)
It’s kind of weird working on something that has no deadline and will mostly take years and years of work and you have no idea if it will go anywhere and who do you think you are some kind of novelist or something but doesn’t everyone have to start somewhere?!
I guess I should just stop contemplating my feelings about the book and just work on it.
See you in a year or two, future book. I hope you’re not a piece of crap.