20 April, 2017

Fun in the Gun

Nah... the point is that I DON'T have a gun to my head.

My biggest fear has always been the passage of time.  Let me tell you a story, even if it takes a little while.

When I was on the MFA, sitting across from Paul McAuley (a god to me at the time) he was talking about the scenes not perfectly meshing into a cohesive emotional effect.  He paused in mid sentence, looked at me with a squint and said, "Is this a first draft?"

It was.

"This is good for a first draft."

"I edit as I go," I said.

He put the papers down and said, "I want to see a second draft."

I published that second draft.  It's called "Temple of Mirrors".  You can read it here. 

It held the 3rd place spot in popularity on Short-story.me for like 4 years or something.  The second place spot only beat me by a few clicks.  Last time I checked, about a year ago, mine had around 8,000 reads.  Now it has 14,000.  That said, now it's number 34, but I'm still perfectly happy.  People are reading it seven years later.  Hail Lord McAuley for his help and criticism, but in his opinion, the biggest thing he taught me was to write second drafts.

Oh, if only I weren't such an idiot.  Or maybe I just fear the reaper.  Fear makes people stupid.  People have been telling me to re-draft for years.  Terry Pratchet once said the first draft is just the story we tell ourselves.  He doesn't have six computer screens so that he can see more pages of his drafts.  He's got one devoted to plot outline, one devoted to ideas, and I have no idea what he uses screens 4-6 for.  Maybe I'll be a better writer if I ever figure that out.

Here.  It's in pictoral form too.  See?  That proves it.

 first draft is just you telling yourself the story. ~ Terry Pratchett ...

Most importantly, every writer I know of who doesn't redraft properly writes in quite a rambling, unfocussed fashion.  They're usually qutie good at plotting, hence getting away with it, but as I read I can always feel the central narrative screaming to escape.  And these people do go back a cut superfluous scenes.  Nobody just finishes and says, "Booyah!  Done!"

I'm not really guilty of THAT.  I'm not that bad.  I do redraft, but the redrafting is cursory.  I can't say I sit there with a manuscript and a pen filling each page with notes and then re-writing the book.  That's what the best writers do.

To sum up, my period of idiocy is over.  I refuse to feel bad about all this time.  If anything it means I have a crap load of stories I can make something special of if I spend a long time editing.  I hate editing.  It feels like work.  But honestly sometimes feeling like you've suffered for work just makes you feel like a grown up, so I'll get to it.

I'll leave you with another great Terry Pratchett quote.

first draft let it run turn all the knobs up to 11 second draft hell ...
So he thinks editing is hell too, but he does it.  And there's no gun to my head.  If a book takes me eight months to write instead of four, and it's twice as good a book, I win.

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