Monday, November 02, 2009

Uphill... both ways

Aside from those rare instances like last week, when my characters spilled a flood of dialogue out to me in a single morning (and which I'm still making heads or tails of), first draft writing is excruciatingly slow for me.

I often wonder what it's like for writers who whip through their first drafts in the space of a few months (or those hikers who can hustle up a mountain without the frequent breathers us regular mortals take). The only time I accomplished anything resembling a fast first draft was in writing a piece of fan fiction (for the movie Ever After, with Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott), which turned out to be about 50,000 words long. I wrote it for a group of friends who were also fans of the movie, from November 1998 through January or February 1999. But I wasn't being too concerned with things like historical accuracy, or research. It was a simple, straightforward story, a classic romance plot: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wises up and gets girl back. I was mostly concerned with echoing as many themes from the movie as I could, to capture that particular flavor. The only research required was repeated viewing of the movie.

Today was a slow writing day on WILLA, as I picked my way through a conversation in the wake of a violent action and some bad news delivered to my main characters. Someone has lots of 'splaining to do, but how much 'splaining at one go is too much? How much does the reader really need, this early on? How can I be sure I explain enough, so that the reader isn't left in confusion? Too, I need to make sure my characters aren't simply sitting around, stunned at what took place, and talking on and on (and on) about What It All Means. It's a slow process, feeling my way step by step, line by line, putting in words, taking them out, putting them back, trimming, cutting, pasting them away for safekeeping.

It'll get done. Just wish my pace didn't always put me at the back of the pack. A bit dusty back here!

To offset this tedious first draft work, and for some much needed brain rest, I've begun another edit on KINDRED, which feels a lot more to me like coming down a mountain than laboring up. It's surprising what a little objectivity and a lot of ruthlessness will still accomplish at this point. Based on my progress with the first 8-9 chapters, my goal is to see another 10-20K disappear, before I reach The End, again. I'm keeping track over in the side bar.

Wish me luck! Especially, pray for me.


  1. Lori, you sure have your work cut out for you with your edits! I have you on my prayer list! It's hard to know how, when, and where to insert back story. To me back story is part of the story. But I'm trying to write by the rules of show don't tell and not dump information. For me when I'm working on a first draft I just write however it happens to come out, whatever is on my mind. I just have to get it down on paper and then I can make decisions later. Sometimes as I'm going along I'll find that some of the previously written stuff can be inserted later on. I'm still in the learning curve. Can't tell you how many words I have going now in any of my WIPS.

    Blessings as you write . . .and rewrite!

  2. Lori,
    Keep on climbing - and enjoying the walk downhill on both WIP's. I hear you use different parts of the brain for creating and editing. Maybe that's why one is more angst-filled than the other? I love the first draft most, editing last, as you know. Cheering you and Willa and Kindred on! Can't wait to read both of them? Start dreaming about those book covers:) Praying, too.

  3. This is my day for typos! I mean, can't wait to read both of them!!!!!

  4. Laura,

    Speaking of dreams, I meant to tell you earlier today, last night I dreamed I was watching a book trailer for Courting Morrow Little! Does one even exist? I saw your hero... and I haven't even read him yet. I know only one crucial fact about him, and that was accurate in my dream. How weird is that? And how cool. Your writing has certainly captured my imagination. :)

    I definitely feel an ease and freedom in editing that I don't usually feel in writing first draft. I won't say never. There are those magical moments. :)

  5. Carla,

    Sounds like we approach first drafts and back story by the same process. I'm trying to be a savvy as I can as I write, and doing things as right as I know how to the first time through, but not getting too worried over it. I feel an urgency to speed up my writing process, but there comes a point where it becomes counterproductive, and I remind myself to take my time and have fun. I appreciate your prayers! I think as writers we all need them. Like any craft, mastering it is a lot of work, and we do it alone, for the most part, through trial and error. How thankful I am for those writers who have taken the time to write craft books, or even blog posts.

  6. Oh I love the book trailer idea! And I bet if I could pluck that hero out of your creative brain, he might just match with the man I made:) Revell hasn't jumped on the book trailer bandwagon yet though maybe this is something an author does themselves? Not sure. I really like watching them though!
    Keep dreaming:)

    Likewise, sometimes the edit has magic moments for me but most of the time it is a sheer effort of will to get through it. At least the first draft is easier for me or I might have quit long ago!

  7. Laura,

    "Likewise, sometimes the edit has magic moments for me but most of the time it is a sheer effort of will to get through it."

    Sheer effort of will. You nailed it. That's how I feel most days while writing the first draft. I have this inner cheerleader that often chants, "Don't stop now. Go for another hour. You can do it!" while writing first draft. But while editing (which means the second I go back and start to read over what I just wrote) something clicks over in my brain, I hit a stride, and I totally lose myself in the work. Then the time flies. So I do the hard work for the reward that's waiting just a few hours away.

  8. Laura,

    About the book trailers, they can be done by authors, although it's not something I'd want to try at home! J M Hochstetler created a wonderful trailer for her book, Wind of the Spirit, using Windows Movie Maker. You can see it here:

    And she posted the process step by step on her American Patriot Series blog, back in June. Starting with this post:

  9. Bless you, Lori! That was just a great book - I have that series and don't loan it out! Love this back and forth as it helps educate me:) Will have to check these links out. I haven't visited JM's blogs for awhile but really used to enjoy them. Now I'm hooked on yours - lol:)

  10. Anonymous1:46 PM

    That piece of fan fiction is probably my favorite thing you ever wrote! Funny, I was thinking of it just the other day, wanting to go back and read it again.

  11. Doree,

    Check your email. :) That story will always hold a special place in my heart. It would make a great B-movie sequel, I think! Ha.

  12. LOL. Your fanfic sounds like what I write. 50K boy meets girl. :-) In some ways, it can be hard to fill in all the words because they're so tightly focused, and they exclude secondary characters to the point of near non-existant.

    I fall into the anti-editing caregory. I don't hate editing, but love creating something new. I typically enjoy my first draft experience, though that can't be said for all of my MSs. Some of them have been pulling teeth to finish, but I MAKE myself finish.

    I won't disclose my usual first draft completion speed...

    You have my prayers and I hope you make it through the Dead Zone.


  13. Maisey,

    Did you know I have a "Maisy" in KINDRED?

    Anyway, yeah. I keep thinking when I start a new story, this one will be simpler. This one will go faster. But no. Guess I'm just wired to write complex historicals where even secondary characters have arcs, of a sort.

    My pace goes something like this, on an average day: I write about 500 words, then have to stop, back off, think things through, make sure I'm not dropping any story threads and that everyone is in character. Fiddle with the texture, the setting--is it getting too static? Should I have a character up and walk out, make everyone follow her to a new setting? Or stay put? Or things are getting muddled because I have to do more research.

    Part of me loves the challenge, or else I wouldn't keep embracing it. And there are those days when I'm writing mostly relationship stuff, that I get 1-2K words written. But that takes me 4-5 hours and leaves me drained.

    And I know your pace, young lady. I see your updates on Facebook! You go! :-)

  14. One of my writing buddies writes, prints out what she's written, takes her red pen to it, then goes back and fixes it all, and that's her writing day.

    I save edits, unless I have a bit that's really not working, until I'm through with the whole MS. Changes the pace we work at a lot!

    We were comparing it to building a house, she said she builds a room, does all the flooring and decor, then moves onto the next one and I build the exterior put in the major fixtures, then go back and add the furniture and decor. :-)

    I can't imagine keeping track of multiple arcs and I know all the research is time consuming. I just have to google resort pictures. Ah, contemporary romance. :-)

    Don't know HOW long it would take if I had to worry about Historical accuracy!

  15. "We were comparing it to building a house, she said she builds a room, does all the flooring and decor, then moves onto the next one and I build the exterior put in the major fixtures, then go back and add the furniture and decor."

    Great comparison, and I fall closer to your friend's method. I do quite a few drafts on a scene before moving on. But even then I know it isn't really finished. Not until the whole is complete. Then I go back and make sure each room doesn't clash with the rest of the house, or that if I picked up a theme in one room, that it's carried through the rest of the house. :)