|My novel, my image|
(Internal Editor otherwise known as: Perfectionist Side of Doom to All Novels and Eddie.)
A comment by James V on my recent plot elephants post made me realize something: there’s a difference between accepting that you get ripe story ideas slowly and letting a perfectionist side strangle any hope of ever writing anything.
This is not to say James V necessarily has this problem--I don’t know. But I know I have had this problem, and I know others that are still combating it, so I thought I’d address it.
Despite all of the juicy and highly recommended goodness of the One Year Adventure Novel’s lessons on structure, characters, conflict, and, most importantly, theme, I must admit that the best thing I got out of my first year with Mr. S. was this: first drafts are always rough.
I am an incurable perfectionist. I like things just so. Though my inability to tell story certainly crippled my early efforts, my need for the “just so” would have undoubtedly crippled my OYAN efforts if I hadn’t been told first drafts are always rough and give yourself permission to write badly.
Repeatedly, mind you.
No novel jumps out of an author’s brain, through the author’s fingers, and splat across the laptop screen in absolute, amazing brilliancy. There might be flashes of brilliance, yes, but no novel is born completely perfect.
Good writing is rewriting, to quote another smart person.
If you, the perfectionist author, do not manage to strangle and silence the perfectionist when you’re writing the rough draft of your novel, it will undoubtedly strangle and silence your novel. It will say: “that’s not good enough. Start over.” So you start over. But it decides that’s not good enough either and want you to start over. And again. And again. And again. (It’s rather like the “Why’s the Rum Gone?” remix.) Until the novel is bled dry and you’re miserable because you can’t make it brilliant on the first go-round.
It’s okay if ideas ripen slowly. It’s okay if not all ideas end up as an edited-a-dozen-times novel. But teach yourself to approach each idea you think is ready sincerely--and allow yourself to write it badly.
Allow yourself to have stilted dialogue, poor pacing, horrendous prose, and cliché characters: of course, this isn’t what you are striving for (and you likely won’t have all of those, certainly not all at the same time), but allow it to happen in the first draft. If you don’t allow for it, the first draft will never happen. Period.
It makes me chuckle a little to look through Forest of Lies’s rough draft (which was only ever read by Mr. S., by the by!), and even draft II. But if I hadn’t found the guts to let that rough draft be, draft IV wouldn’t be happening now. I wouldn’t have Forest of Lies.
Give yourself permission to write badly.
Good writing is rewriting.
An ugly rough manuscript is better than the most brilliant unwritten novel.
Make it REAL before you make it RIGHT.
First drafts are always rough.