Reacting to a First Draft in Progress

“You can’t write. You KNOW you can’t write. What in the world made you think you could write? Seriously….”

Participating in NaNoWriMo this month has shown me I have a range of reactions to a novel in progress. First draft composition is among my favorite parts of the writing process, especially when it’s going well. Oftentimes, of course, the going is not so smooth. So here are the range of intensity of freakouts (or lack thereof) when things aren’t flowing or I realize what I’m writing is pretty much dog poop…. Feel free to commiserate and/or add your own!

  1. THE “AT LEAST I GOT SOMETHING WRITTEN TODAY.” Yeah, this scene sucks. Whatever. Better than having no scene at all. So suck it, blank page. I beat you. I BEAT YOU! Much like King Arthur, your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!
  2. THE “THIS IS SO BAD IT’S HYSTERICAL.” Yep. This scene’s definitely coming out. I’m totally saving it for future reference though, because it’s so bad it could win a prize for failing paragraphs/scenes. Do they have those? I should create those. I’d sweep the ceremony. Also, this scene will make me laugh upon occasion. Hey, maybe I should write a book about how NOT to write and put this scene in it….
  3. THE ZOMBIE. I’m so tired right now I really can’t find the energy to care how bad this is. Score. Maybe, since I’m not caring, I could benefit by adding a couple more bad paragraphs to what I have already? Good idea? Yes? Coolio! TEA TIME!
  4. THE “I’M DRAWN TOO THIN.” Who cares if it’s bad? You’ve got so many other things to do! Seriously, don’t worry about it and just get some sentences in there as soon as you can because you HAVE to move on to something else on the to-do list. Seriously, those plane tickets aren’t going to buy themselves, and you need to get that bridesmaid’s dress before the store closes….
  5. THE “EDITING THIS IS GONNA SUCK BIG TIME.” When it’s not SO bad you’ll have to erase the entire scene later on. But you kind of would prefer that over touching it again.
  6. THE FREAK OUT. Oh man, this is horrible. This is so horrible. It’s so bad it’s crossing into territory I haven’t ventured into since that first novel I wrote that my friends still make fun of me for. UGH! Time to remember you love that first novel anyway. LOVE THE HORRIBLE FIRST NOVEL, VICTORIA!

13 responses to “Reacting to a First Draft in Progress

  1. I often feel like this when I’m still on the 2nd chapter.
    Halfway I start to feel better with believing.
    Then when I overlook the 1st draft, I realise how much dung there is to be shifted out.

    The main thing is to keep focussed.
    I’ve been battling away for a while, and I am determined to get my stuff out there.
    Loved the post πŸ™‚

  2. My experience with this, my first Nanowrimo attempt, has been more like a rollercoaster. One day I’m psyched, think the story is great, my characters sparkle, my plot surging ahead all its own. The next day I’m sorely tempted to hit “Delete All” and retire to wallow in my failure. Yesterday was the former, today, so far the latter. But we must all hang together and get down to the 49,999th and 50,000th words: THE END.
    I figure we owe this crazy little notion that we really can write one measly month of our lives, don’t you? πŸ˜‰

    • totally agree! a major rollercoaster. best of luck with your novel, Frances! Hang in there and get your 50k! There’s always time to edit, add, and change later πŸ™‚ Don’t give in to that “delete all” temptation!

  3. Wow, this hit home today!! I just read a blog on historical fiction, saying that 1 out of every 2 readers of historical fiction have a college degree. I assumed that readers of anything historical would be educated, but as soon as I saw this, I thought exactly the words under your picture. “Ok, this is your first book and you are going to write something that if you screw up, an educated historian could shoot holes into it like Swiss cheese!” Hmmm..kind of scary..but you know, I have been wanting to do this for so many years and let fear stop me. I am still going to do it, but it is scary.. πŸ™‚

    • go for it!!! πŸ™‚ you’ll be great. you know your audience and you know you’ll need research, so it seems to me you’re definitely setting yourself up for success!

    • The important thing to remember, Rebecca, is that if you are writing historical fiction, it is FICTION. Yes, you have to do some basic fact checking. You can’t have your 19th century heroine in a miniskirt and her lover in a BMW. But with all the nifty historical websites out there, research has never been easier. You can sometimes even look at actual photographs, or paintings, of how things looked, what they wore.
      I remember having a panic attack when working on one of my historical novels (unfinished, like the rest =/ ) and describing a breakfast scene in 14th century Italy. I had them sipping coffee. Then I thought, gee, I wonder if they drank coffee back then? Guess what I found out!
      But as long as you add in just enough fact-checked, realistic detail, the rest of your story is fiction. That gives us writers a healthy dose of artistic license. Just write the story. You can always go back later and change that cup of coffee to mulled wine, like I did πŸ˜‰
      Write on!

      • Thank you, Frances! I have been doing a lot of research, but I haven’t started the actual writing yet. I have an idea, but not a full sketch of it yet. I have been debating on working with an outline, but I haven’t had much success with outlines for anything in the past. On the other hand, it would help me organize everything a I’m not sure. I seem to get ideas about it in the shower. I came up with a idea for the end of the first chapter..but I have to come up with page one πŸ™‚

  4. Love this; so funny and true. ‘suck it blank page!’ is my favorite.

  5. For some reason, whenever I’m writing, I always think that the section I’m working on is bad and that the rest of the story is much better. It isn’t until I come back to it that I realize that most of it is much better than I thought when I initially wrote it. Now that I’ve realized this, I just tell myself to keep writing and figure that I’ll have to make decisions on whether the scene stays or goes when I make my next pass.

    • oh my gosh, what you’re saying is so true! i think there are a lot of people who have that experience, and you’re right, all you can do is just keep writing and make the changes and the cuts later. that’s really important to keep in mind or you’ll never keep going. thanks for sharing!!! good to know I’m not alone πŸ™‚

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