God knows I’m not a perfectionist. If you saw the condition of my house you’d know that right off the bat. But I think you can also see it in my writing. I don’t mean to insult myself, but I know people, quite a few people, who have trouble leaving a piece ‘imperfect’. Not me. My first draft is the kind of thing nightmares are made of. The kind where if someone read it I’d have to change my name and take the first shuttle off the planet. But I still don’t have trouble leaving my work a little rough.
I write the first draft from start to finish as fast as I can. Maybe 10-20 pages a day until it’s done. There will be approximately 100,000 mistakes. Nothing is spelled right. Props appear from thin air. There is no real plot and my characters basically live in a vacuum. They’re rarely clothed, and don’t REALLY have names. Sometimes a guy will be called HERO for half the book, or maybe his name will change on page 182. That’s all okay with me because I’m a five draft kind of girl. The first is just the bones, the foundation, the jumping off point that piques my interest and sets the stage.
During the second draft I begin to make it make sense. By then I’ve kind of figured out what’s going to happen and from that I know who my characters are. So I begin to add support beams, to make sure the gun my heroine has on page 73 existed on page 1.
Draft number three adds character development. By then I’ve been living with my people for a while. I’m beginning to learn what makes them tick. I might discover a kinky sense of humor, a weird insecurity, or a latent desire. I think of it as drywall. Unfinished but beginning to take shape. I usually discover during this draft that I truly cannot write.
But sometime during the next draft things USUALLY begin to take shape. I can imagine the entire building by then. The electrical work is added. The plumbing is complete. I have power…but no paint, no pictures on the walls, no polish. It’s not a home yet.
That should happen…I always pray that happens…during the final draft. That’s the draft when I read the whole thing out loud. When I add spark and life and color and texture. When my people become real, when I can smells the smells and taste the flavors. Sometimes by the end of that draft I actually LIKE my writing. But not always. There has been more than one instance when I send my manuscript in KNOWING I’m the worst author on Earth. KNOWING, in fact, that if I do take that shuffle off planet, I will be the worst writer on that globe, too. That’s hard, but what can I do? The book was promised. I have deadlines. And it turns out, not surprisingly maybe, that I can’t tell if my work is good or not. Sometimes the ones I actually like aren’t well received. Sometimes the ones I send in with bated breath are the ones that are my editors’ favorites. It’s impossible for me to tell the difference. But I keep writing them anyway. Maybe because I have too.
So how about you other writers out there? What’s your method? Are you a one draft wonder? Do you write four books at once? Do you draft the last scene first then fill in the other 350 pages? Do tell; maybe it’s time for me to try a new system.