Monday, November 10, 2008

The Beginning is a Very Fine Place to Start

Everyone has a process for writing. There are the rituals they perform before sitting down at the pad or keyboard. They may write in certain places because they feel the most productive there. There are mojo tchotchkes they keep around them while they write. There are soundtracks they've created as background. That's just getting ready to write, setting the atmosphere.

Some writers agonize over every word that goes on a page, intent on getting that first draft as near perfect as they can. Some simply vomit stuff onto the page and then edit it ruthlessly. After reading a lot of books about writing it's clear that with time and practice the shitty first draft stage grows progressively less shitty. Certainly not shit free but less shitty. See what I said there? Practice.

In the beginning I think it comes down to an act of bravery, throwing everything onto the paper to see how it blends. With practice you get better at recognizing what looks good and what looks hideous. You learn not to put verbal plaids and paisley's together, unless you're going for deliberate dissonance. If you've never done this before or don't have a lot of experience at it, how do you know if the half-baked idea you think is pretty cool doesn't have a hope in hell of working unless you write it down? How do you know that boring idea that seems so cliche could turn into a clever twist with a bit of help, if you don't write it down? How do you know if anything is any good unless you fearlessly throw it out there and see what happens?

I'm 25k plus into NaNoWriMo. I'm enjoying myself despite the fact I know that first 25k will be gutted ruthlessly in later edits. I know the characters a little better because of that 25k. I have an inkling about the direction the story is taking, thanks to that 25k. That 25k had to be done in order for me to get to the business of moving the characters along in the story. Without that 25k I'd still be sitting there, terrified of the page, with only 1500 words to my credit.

Today, for the first time, I dared to look ahead for the characters and toss some ideas out so I could try them on for size, see if they stuck to the page. Today, for the first time I'm planning ahead by a couple scenes/chapters rather than having no earthly idea where things are going when I sit down at the page. I have some idea of the things I'd like to throw on that canvas, to see if they make harmonious and pleasing patterns.

Craft is for later edits. Right now is for discovery. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed writing like this. I feared I'd lost the pleasure while still having the desire to write.

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