Friday, February 12, 2010

Scaling Mt. First Draft


I was composing an email to a friend this week and noticed it was coming up on my 9am-quit-stalling-and-get-to-work-on-the-novel time. So I finished the email with these words:

Time to get to work. A few more steps up this literary mountain. Funny how it is much like climbing a mountain, writing a first draft. The farther I climb/write, the better my view of the big picture becomes. But it never seems to get easier. I wonder if it's because I keep adding things (craft knowledge, rules, techniques) to the pack I carry? But who wants to get caught on the side of a mountain, stranded without some key piece of survival gear?

I've done a lot of mountain climbing, but I've never been one of those hikers who hustle their way up a mountain like their legs are made of steel. My pace is slow. I rest at streams. Point out interesting bits of flora to fellow hikers. Fallen trees along the trail are inviting places to pause and look out at the expanding view below. The climbing process doesn't get any easier, though one would think at some point conditioning would kick in and my pace would pick up just a bit.

The same seems to hold true for first draft writing. I'm working on WILLA, which to my reckoning is my fifth first draft (not counting three novels abandoned at the midway point), and I don't seem to be progressing any faster than last time. Perhaps this is due to the increased amount of First Draft Survival Gear I'm carrying, all those writing craft books and blogs and conference notes I've read since my last first draft, this huge pack on my back full of handy tools for....
Plotting the most direct route up the mountain and avoiding side trails
Helping me through that soggy middle stretch where I tend to bog down
Discovering the details of setting that anyone but my POV character would be bound to miss
Finding the energy to get up and take a few more steps, and then a few more....
Finishing strong, enjoying the view, then evaluating whether the trail I chose was the quickest way to the top; might there be a better way? A more exciting route?
It takes time and energy for the portage and maintenance of all the gear I've accumulated over the years, but I'd rather have it with me than find myself lost and helpless in the wilderness of writing a first draft. A few of the handy tools in my pack:
The Fire In Fiction, by Donald Maass
Revision & Self Editing, by James Scott Bell
Writer's Workshop, A Guide to the Craft of Fiction, by Stephen Koch
Hooked, by Les Edgerton
What are some of the essentials in your pack?






 











Hiking in Cade's Cove, TN. Photo by Doree Ross

5 comments:

  1. The most essential part of my pack is the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It really helps me with the editing stage. I couldn't live without it.

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  2. Janine, AutoCrit Editing Wizard is something I've never heard of. I'll have to google it... sounds like a software program? Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

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  3. Lori,

    I picture in my mind, attached to this post, that lovely photo of you on our hike to Abram's Falls, the one where we stopped to rest and you are enjoying the view. And your hair is shining like spun gold. I confess I don't really remember what you had tucked in your pack back then, other than toasted almonds.... :) Keep climbing, my friend.

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  4. Doree.... this one? :-) I'll always love it. And keep climbing.

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  5. Yes, that's the one. :)

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