Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don't take input on draft one

I overcame a major (writer’s) stumbling block yesterday: I stopped caring about the quality of my writing as I was writing a first draft. By the way, my first drafts aren’t good (more a sketch of the painting to come…).

When I wrote Captive I just sat down and wrote…no one reading, commenting or adding input. Then, for a while, I worked with an agent who pushed book two. She wanted it on a time table I couldn’t meet and provided suggestions with each new set of pages; the suggestions weren’t, in my mind, consistent. I got confused and lost sight of where the book was going. I ended up trashing most of it.

Not her fault, however. I should have ignored her and done my own thing. I don’t write chronologically…she wanted chronological. I don’t edit the first draft so her comments only got me confused. Instead, I sketch out the book on the page and then revisit what I’ve done after it’s done.

I lost confidence in myself, my work and that book. And much of the time I spent was a waste.

But instead of crying over spilt milk I’ve learned from the experience. I should have just said no. Enamored by her client base and reputation I deferred to her judgment instead of honoring my own. Yet I’m the one writing!

And I have a new draft. This time, Escape draft has moved to Northern Africa and New York; I’ve left a war zone and headed into a revolution. I’m not second guessing what I write as I spell out the words in the draft. So far I like the 130 plus pages!. Should I show it to an agent now I’d have to explain that all of the first three chapters could end up being the real first chapter; or, as with Captive, I may write the first chapter after the rest of the book is done.

And I’ve asked myself, how did I make that mistake? After all, even when taking UCLA classes and discussing my first book I evaluated the comments before making changes (deciding first if I agreed or didn’t). For the most part (and coming from an investment banking background) I analyze things, and while I’ll consider argument, do hold firm on my beliefs. So what happened?

Two factors weighed heavy and the first continues to nag at me. When I wrote Captive I just wanted to finish a novel. Quality was beyond my ambition. With the second book I now have something to prove: that I can write a book as good or better. The flops tend to come with the number two (in most areas) leaving you with the label “lucky”. Second, I deferred to someone with more experience. The agent knows the book world, market and quality. Yet I forgot that she doesn’t write. While I may sound critical of her sometimes I’m not; she taught me about the conviction a writer must have as they create. Revisions come after the initial draft is done and you personally have revised it a few time.

I’ll never write her way again; I plan on continuing to write my way.

Escape is coming along…not as fast as I’d like but isn’t that how life too often works!

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