I was at a lecture a few weeks ago given by historical fiction author Geraldine Brooks. Not really what this post is about, but, if you ever get the chance, I recommend going to hear her talk. To be honest, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, and I had never really heard of her before I went to hear her speak–I really just went because she’s a writer and it sounded interesting. (I was apparently the only one who didn’t know who she was, though. The place was packed.) She used to be a journalist covering the Middle East so, in addition to talking about her recent novel The Secret Chord, she had a lot of stories and insight to share.
Anyway, something else she said stuck with me. She said someone asked her author friend once what her writing process was, and her friend replied something like: “Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess. Mess…..art.”
Of course, you had to be there, but when she said it, everybody laughed–many writers in the room knowingly. Because often that’s what it feels like. You start out with the “word vomit”–just getting the words down on paper, not worrying too much about egregious grammar mistakes, typos, or the giant, gaping plot hole you might not catch until later. The first draft–and the second, maybe even the third–can be something of a mess. What Ms. Brooks said reminded me of another quote about first drafts, attributed to Shannon Hale, that I like: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” (I love that one.)
That’s what I’m doing right now. Around the end of February, I finished the first complete draft of Reclaim, and now I’m cleaning it up, trying to build sand castles. And it is a bit of a mess. (I mean, I found a part toward the beginning introducing a plot thread I had decided early on to take out. So I didn’t carry it through the rest of the book, but that little section was still in there. It was very satisfying to just highlight, hit “delete,” and move on.)
I’m not actually changing anything major. Although I had an outline for the book, the characters had minds of their own and–as they always do–took the story in some unexpected directions. But I like where they took me, what they revealed about themselves and the essence of the story.
But there are edits to make, and sometimes I feel like it’s going to take me forever. I get discouraged. Frustrated. Especially when other work takes over and I have to put book writing/editing on the back burner for a few weeks. It usually ends up being a good thing when I take a break from it. My subconscious has a chance to sort out some of the issues that have been nagging me, and I go back to it feeling refreshed. But it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty when I can’t work on it every single day.
Thanks for following along, and I’ll continue to check in monthly as the journey to book three continues. I do have the cover, so we’ll do a cover reveal at some point, in a few weeks or so. If you’re happening upon my blog for the first time, you can find out more about my books and WIPs under the “My Books” tab on the main menu. Until next time, happy reading!