The next person who tells me The Best Way To Write That First Draft is to “just keep writing, don’t edit, don’t worry about changing anything until you’re done all the way to The End” will be figuratively hit over the head with all seven completed novels I successfully wrote while self-editing like a mad fiend. I will grant two of those novels were hopeless dreck, but I got better. I know how to finish. I know what the fuck I am doing.
Yah, sure, I sometimes piss and moan about my struggles with this writing gig, but I’m sick and tired of getting chirpy-happy brightsiding advice in reply. Gaps in my happiness are not openings through which to insert boilerplate one-size-fits-all Writing Advice. Do not poke my process. I will bite those fucking fingers off.
I am not pissing on other ways of doing. I adore reading “How I Did It” stories. I enjoy peering down the roads not taken and trying new tricks and stretching my skills–at my on speed, and in my own oddball way. That’s discovery and exploration.
But slapping the same information into my online space as responsive commentary (or throwing it unasked in my face in person) is like reaching for a tissue and getting sandpaper instead.
Suggestions to “Try X, it works for me/my friend/this famous person” erode my emotional defenses. Those offhand remarks, however kindly intended, carry implicit messages of disapproval of whatever I’m doing now. They scrape me raw.
When I gripe, I need comfort, not Perky Writing 101. Gnashing my teeth over uncooperative prose indicates desire for commiseration, empathy, and/or demands for productivity. It is NOT an invitation for correction of the many, many, flaws in my writing craft.
I already know the way I write best is not what’s recommended by successful/ commercial/ profitable writers or taught in any workshop. I have been to workshops. I have taken classes. I’ve tried the tried&true. It. Doen’t. Work. For. Me.
And yet, hard as I march to my own rhythm, the drumbeat never drowns out Common Wisdom. Why so stubborn? My brain whispers in this annoying little voice it uses when it’s being a shit. Try it that other way. Do that other thing. Yes, last time changing up your writing stopped you cold and killed your spirit, but maybe this time it’ll be different. Why do you keep pretending you know better than all the experts and teachers, you egotistical hack?
That annoying whisper is hard enough to silence without unsolicited advice giving it a megaphone and amplifier.
I self-edit constantly, I don’t outline in detail or make character sheets or do ANYthing I’m “supposed” to do, and yet left to myself I can produce a clean, editable novel manuscript in as little as few months…
…or as long as several years. Why such a range? Here’s a confession: I write only when I can delude myself into thinking that someone else actually-really-truly wants to pick up what I’m laying down and wants it RIGHT NOW.
The right now part is critical. I’ll likely miss every deadline laid down, but having them does motivate me. But I can’t set my own deadlines. I’m good at deluding myself, but the idea that anyone else (in the larger sense of The General Public, not in the sense of my loyal couple dozen fans…) wants my writing NOW? That’s too big a bouncer for me to swallow.
So. I stop writing when being constantly hounded about process AND when I think nobody else really cares if I ever finish or not. Fragile, frail flower, that’s me. Piss, moan, stomp, stomp. Oh, look. I’m griping again. Life as usual.
NO I AM NOT ASKING FOR ADVICE. I am just sulking here in my internet corner, much the same way my cat grumbles to himself when he’s settling into his blanket for a nap.
This isn’t my first rodeo. When I’m bucking and and growling all over the ring to work off my temper, don’t step in there with advice. You’ll get stomped on like a baby chick. If I want advice on how to ride the bronco, I promise I will ask for it. I will even use interrogative phrasing and proper punctuation to make abundantly clear that I am making questions.
Otherwise cheers and hollering and applause from the sidelines is what I actually need. In case anyone was wondering.
One response to “Feeling Ranty About Writing (Again)”
I’m with you in terms of method. I used to say that I don’t do drafts, I think it’s more accurate to say that I do multiple drafts simultaneously. Generally, though, I do my rewrite work in my head and by the time I type something out it’s already been revised extensively. I would say that between 80% and 90% of the words in my finished project are what I typed on my first pass.