Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tactical Tuesday~The Suckage Factor

Well, I can't believe Tuesday has come around again so quickly!

I got SO MANY great suggestions for the Tactical Tuesday rodent's name.

CONGRATULATIONS to Harlow Blue (who obviously paid VERY GOOD attention to last week's discussion on character names) for christening him:

Fluster McKnucklesby.

Today Fluster is going to expound upon:

The Suckage Factor

The book I'm working on now sucks. Like a Hoover. Why does it suck? Because it's supposed to. Because it's THE FIRST DRAFT.

In her classic book Bird by Bird (an excerpt appears here), Anne Lamott says:

"Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts."

Now that ought to be a huge relief to those of you struggling through the first draft. It's easy to think your first draft should be polished like a glass tabletop. Not so. My first drafts are scratched, coffee-cup-ringed tabletops covered with melted crayon, bread crumbs, and an unknown sticky substance. (Well, YOU have a dirty mind, DON'T you?)

For example, I don't correct spelling with first drafts. I don't even go back and fix character names. I have a character whose name has changed five times so far in the novel. I figure I'll eventually sort it out. Grammar? Hahahahaha....

The writer's biggest enemy in writing the first draft is the Internal Editor. You know, that bespectacled, red pencil-brandishing lady in the long black dress, with the gray hair pulled into a tight bun? (Well, that's what MY Internal Editor looks like. Yours may look completely different.) Anyway, Bespectacled Lady DOES have a purpose. She's very, VERY good at spotting errors, repetitions, clunky dialogue, logical inconsistencies, and I will eventually need her help.

Just not now.

Every day when I'm writing my first draft, I need to tie Bespectacled Lady to a chair and slap some duct tape on her mouth. She's quite ornery... sometimes I need to stop and retye and tape her several times during a writing session. But I have no choice. If I listen to her, I won't write a word. How could I? Bespectacled Lady demands perfection, and it just doesn't happen in Draft One. Nor should it.

Jodi Picoult says: "You can always edit a bad page…you can’t edit a blank page."

Very true. In your NEXT draft, you'll untie Bespectacled Lady (or Frumpy Man, or Satanic Frog, or whoever). Pull off the duct tape. And that's when you sit and listen, because that's when things get fun. I far prefer the second draft (and third, and fourth, and fifth). To me, that's the best part of writing.

But for now... just make bad pages that you'll eventualy fix and work through like chunks of clay. That's what First Draft Land is all about.

In closing, some words from Anne: "The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later."

So go play, children!