Write a book. Same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world. Held a private workshop today, one of my favorite things to do, so we know I can talk the talk, but can I write the write? We'll see. I'm going to absent myself from society for the next two weeks, see what good that does me; in the meantime, I've been picking out some draft excerpts from last year's nano-novel, which will be automatically posted to the site every few days. I thought I'd put them up in their raw, unedited form, so you can see what goes into a first draft of mine and what I skip over and save for the next draft. For instance, when I write the first draft of a conversation, I just write the dialogue and the broad strokes, and it's usually very "on the nose," and I don't skip lines between speakers or add quotation marks, nor do I add much in the way of attributions or stage directions ("he said, throwing the spear at the ninja burglar"), so it winds up looking like this bit, which I posted last year:
Nothing I do is right anymore. She wants to be reassured. When has that ever been his role? Did he ever promise to be the guy who reassures people? He sighs. I never said that. But you indicate that. You indicate it all the time. Abigail, you’re making things up. Don’t negate my reality. He can barely keep his eyes from rolling.
For ease of reading, I've broken down these passages so you can keep track of what's said and what's thought, and who the speaker/thinker is, as such:
Nothing I do is right anymore, she complains.
She wants to be reassured. When has that ever been his role? Did he ever promise to be the guy who reassures people? He sighs. I never said that.
But you indicate that. You indicate it all the time.
Abigail, you’re making things up.
Don’t negate my reality.
He can barely keep his eyes from rolling.
See? You’re rolling your eyes at me.
I am most certainly not rolling my eyes at you. I am trying to determine what you’re trying to say here, and how I can possibly convince you out of something you’ve decided is real.
You could convince me by acting like you like me every once in a while.
That’s neither accurate nor fair, he says. I gave you keys to my apartment; isn’t that an indicator of how I feel? I’ve introduced you to my father. I’ve told you, I’ve never had a relationship like this one before, and yet you keep telling me it’s not enough. I’m starting to feel like I’m the one who can’t do anything right.
His father's genes in him. He would have made an excellent lawyer.
In a second draft, I would spend more time setting the scene, both externally and inside the head of the guy, from whose point of view the scene is meant to be set. I'd show them moving around the small kitchen area, her seated on a stool by the counter while he paced back and forth in front of the burners; you'd hear their voices and see their faces, their mannerisms. I'd rework the line about keeping his eyes from rolling, because it's an overused phrase; and I'd try to find a subtler way to introduce the thoughts expressed in the last two lines. And I'd definitely take out him saying "Abigail," as I've found that most people don't use each other's names a lot in conversation unless they're trying to sell them something.
So this is probably way too arcane and who cares, but I'm generally curious about the way other writers actually work, the logistics of it, in case they've found a way to make it any goddamn easier to write that I could use for myself. Here's something that makes it easier for me: writing first drafts with placeholders, rather than wringing out the perfect word and phrase for everything as I go. It's like drawing: First the face is an oval, then it's an oval with lines all over it, then it's an oval with lines all over it and eye holes, and then after a few more steps you erase the lines and start working on the eyelashes. You don't start with the hair at the left side of the head and work your way across the face, you know what I mean?
Anyway, placeholder scenes from an unfinished novel will be popping up on the site for the next two weeks; make of them what you will, or nothing at all. I will be unresponsive via internet through the weekend of the 16th/17th, but look forward to returning to the blogging world with yet more placeholder scenes from unfinished novels to my name.
Happy new year, still. Happy all year 'round.