October 15, 2010 by Sarah D.
Fiction/Nonfiction writer Anne Lamott says that all great writing derives itself from shitty first drafts. Thank goodness for that. (What she doesn’t say is that all shitty writing also derives itself from shitty first drafts—but let’s all aim for greatness, shall we?)
I’ve not posted for a while because I’ve been, well, writing. (And working, and traveling, and so on.) When I write, I tend to get tunnel vision. The noises of the outside world quiet down a bit, and I’m alone in the room with the page. However, I’m checking into cyberland to excitedly announce the first draft of my 90-day novel. Okay, to be fair it was a 30-something day PLUS a fifty-something day novel. (But, hey, the fact remains, I’ve written it and I’ve got a draft to prove it.)
Many thanks to the inaugural 90-Day Novel writing group who, way back in June, helped me get started on the project. Even though some may have ended up with, ehem, a *fuller* draft than others, the group was really fundamental toward inspiring me, toward challenging me, and, to be honest, toward tapping into my guilt-prone accountability genes that forced me every day to open my word document titled 90daynovel.doc.
If I were the touchy-feely kind of writer (I’m not), I’d say I channeled my inner-me. I’d say that I tapped into the complex psyche of each of my characters and the writing simply flowed. The truth: some days I had to force myself to write—and on occasion, I developed an edge of resentfulness toward these blank-faced characters who were constantly beckoning me for their attention. “Me, next! Look at me!” they’d say.
This kind of grating attention-seeking reminds me of a video of myself as a child. Actually, the video is technically of the Grand Canyon. My father, the family videographer, was trying to capture the expansive beauty of this natural wonder, but in the background you can hear my high-pitch squeal, “Dad. Da-ad. Daaa-aaad!” I was trying to get his attention. “Da-ad!” I’m sure my patient pops eventually turned the camera on me, but when I saw this video a few years back my only thought was: “Damn. I was annoying.”
Characters, too, can be annoying. Writing can be annoying and frustrating and tiring and mind-draining. But it can be a host of other things, too, all those feelings that make writers want to be writers: The exhilaration of finding one’s voice, the high of finishing a chapter, the wild glee you feel knowing you’ve rendered a scene just right.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you write your novel in 90 days, in 100 days, or in 365 days. It doesn’t matter if you crawl, stagger, or sprint to the finish line. What matters, in the end, is that you put your pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and write.
Cheers to first drafts—shitty or otherwise.