Sunday, December 04, 2011
How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 4
Tell your internal editor to go to hell.
You open your manuscript with the idea of writing a gazillion new pages and finally reaching that mid-way point in your two-gazillion page book. Except the minute you open Word you’ve gotta, just GOTTA, go back and check to see if the fact you mentioned about your protagonist liking chai tea is accurate to the story.
I mean, what would happen if you said she drank chai tea on page two hundred but waaaay back somewhere in the first couple chapters you’re pretty sure you mentioned she hates the stuff? There would be obvious anarchy, right?
So, yeah, you’re forced to go back and search through the pages for every mention of chai tea. Then you spend an hour googling the benefits of chai tea and trying to figure out what kind of messed-up creature you’ve created if she doesn’t like chai tea when it’s so damn good for her! Three hours later you close your laptop with a satisfied sigh. You haven’t written a single new word today but you feel like you accomplished something because of all the time you spent editing. You totally grabbed that little chai tea matter, wrestled it to the ground, and beat it to death with your laptop.
Here’s the thing; first draft is for writing from beginning to end. It’s all about getting the damn book DONE and having the satisfaction of writing “The End” (which your editor at any publishing house will promptly edit out).
Every single time you go back and fix stuff and don’t write something new, you stand the chance of turning into J.D. Salinger.
“Wait a second!” you say. “J.D. Salinger is amazing! He wrote Catcher in the Rye and it’s never gone out of print.”
Except that’s the ONLY book he ever published because it took him 10 damn years to write it and, afterward he turned into a recluse. Do you want to be a recluse? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life writing and fixing and never allowing anybody else to read what you’ve written? I didn’t think so.
But … but … but what if you REALLY need to fix that chai tea question? How can you possibly move forward with the entire matter burning a sizable hole in your brain?
Here’s the other thing; this happens to all authors. Some can go back and spend a couple seconds fixing and move on to their new work without issue. They’re amazingly adept at this back-and-forth stuff and they mock those of us who get sucked into the vortex of doom that is our internal editors. If you can fix issues and NOT get sucked into the vortex then, please, carry on (and I hate you).
That’s not me.
So when a burning question crops up that I know from experience will suck me into the vortex, I use a place holder during the first draft. So if I come across something like the burning chai tea question, I would make a notation in the manuscript like this: [confirm if Jane really does like chai tea] and then I just continue writing the first draft.
In second draft, every time I come across a bracketed item [ ] my internal editor goes to town and researches and fixes all those suckers to her sick delight.
Does this make the second draft cumbersome and grueling? Sometimes. But I can fix a chaotic or badly written page, or an incorrect comment in dialogue, in second draft. It’s harder to fix the blank remaining two hundred pages in a manuscript.
Off to fix some blank pages in my stupid book.