Digging trenches (I miss writing first drafts)

Diggin_trenchesI am ten days into the revision of my manuscript and I am jonesing to be writing first drafts again.

Writing first drafts is a freeing experience. A solid couple of hours in the free-wheeling flow state of creating an ever-expanding new story is addictive. Writing first draft pages is like lovemaking; it's fluid and all feeling and peppered with great emotional payoffs.

Since I finished my first draft on January 1st, I haven't had the opportunity to create new fiction. I've been revising instead. Revision feels like manual labor. The list-and-detail management required to process revisions is work that has to be handled, has to be wrestled with. I have to focus thought-energy at the story like Uri Geller trying to bend spoons with his mind. It's the mental equivalent of digging trenches - intense but necessary labor.

I spent a couple of hours today pulling out every time I mention one of the main elements in my book (without saying anything about the actual story - it's the main antagonists reason to exist, their back story, the presence in the action of the novel, their final disposition).

The intent of today's work was to go through that storyline, separate from the rest of the novel, and make sure it stands on it's own. Meaning, does this part of the story have it's own beginning, middle, and end? Does this part of the story move the story forward every time it appears? Does this part of the story carry a reader's interest? Is it worth their time to find out what happens at the end?

I started and stopped. I read and re-read. I tinkered with a thought here, outlined a new scene there, clarified a point here, double-checked a point made by a character against something written fifty pages early. Drive the shovel in, tip the shovel back, turn the shovel out, repeat. Even though it's harder work than writing first draft pages, I know this is the work that the reader deserves; revision is where the raw story gets turned into a novel hopefully worth their investment of time and money.

Writing first drafts has taught me that any task, no matter how daunting, can be seen through to the end if you just keep picking it up and moving it forward on a regular basis. My approach to revision has to be the same. Stay disciplined. Keep working. See it through to the end.

What do you tell yourself to get through work that needs to be done but doesn't measure up to the experience of the raw flow of creativity that writing can be?

Me? I'm saying that the Universe gave me a thinking, reasoning brain to accompany my gooey, creative brain for a reason - so one can keep the other in line so the body going when the work gets tough. And my guess is that while writing first drafts efficiently is a great skill to develop as a writer, the trench-digging of revision will make my the backbones of my stories stronger.

Back to the trenches.

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