The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

So I’m suffering from some sort of stomach bug right now. Not the kind that makes you throw up all the time but it’s definitely telling my body that it’s keeping its options open. So for the most part I just feel ‘blecht.’

Which can make it hard to sit down and write. I still do, I’m just not super happy to do it. Then again, I’m never that supper happy to write in the first place. Getting a story down and me have always been a bit of a fight and the only time I ever seem to have an easy time of it is when I’ve been paid in advance for the draft. Then my brain is like, “They’ve paid me, I can write whatever the hell I want.” And I do and it’s marvelous. But when you’re pulling a spec out of your brain be it a script or longer form fiction, that for me is a bit tortuous.

I always start with an outline. I need to see where things are going to go but an outline doesn’t cover the nitty gritty of things. In a screenplay, it’s not such a big deal as you work in broad strokes, somewhere down the line somebody’s job is going to be figuring out the final fit and finish of the thing, as long as your dialogue and motivations are sound and you’ve mentioned all of the locations you need, the rest becomes a decision in somebody else’s meeting.

When you write in long form prose though, you need the research to be on the page but not so visible, the reader goes, “The writer’s done his research here.” Which is the trouble with military based technothrillers, there’s a lot of research to subsume into the chapters. Because if you don’t get it right, you will catch merry hell for it down the road. Right now I’m writing a lot. What I like to call writing fat. The rough draft is always the kitchen sink draft, everything goes in it. In the next pass, I’ll start trimming the fat and pairing everything down. The second draft will go to my editor and he’ll help me trim it down more until I’ve got something workable. Though I’ll admit, you can get lost in your outline too. It’s one thing to fly over something but once you’re down in the weeds, it can be hard to trust your compass and your map but the minute that sliver of doubt creeps in, that’s when you need to trust them most. Once the bushwacking is done, you can build a better path, then a road, then a highway. If it sounds like a lot of work it is and at no stage does it get much easier. You just hit a point where you’re done. As long as everything looks sound, you most likely are. I’ve seen people spend years building and polishing something to make it perfect in their eyes. And while I’m sure there are perfect works out there, most of them aren’t being read. Imperfections are where the humanity lies.

A lot of emphasis is put on getting your work out quickly to keep yourself in the Amazon algorithm. I don’t agree with this. You’re building a career. Fast work is not always good work and short works aren’t always the best way to explore an idea and as a reader if something is too short, I feel cheated. You need to take the time you need to get it down, to make it feel right. Word counts only matter when you’re publishing. As a daily thing, they just tell you roughly where you are on the rack, the same way an odometer does and just about as accurately.

It’s tough not to get discouraged sometimes. It’s not like you’re building a thing where as you assemble the parts, the whole starts to come into being. It’s more like building an invisible house. You hope the parts have gone together correctly and that you didn’t substitute a floor for a wall but it’s hard to tell sometimes. You just need to trust in yourself and push on. You’ve made it this far, keep going. It doesn’t matter if you’re fifteen or fifty the road is long and hard and while you learn to deal with and conquer each obstacle along the way, new and different ones you weren’t expecting get thrust in your path.

It’s interesting when you create a physical book. It somehow legitimizes you in people’s eyes. Never mind the fact you’ve sold hundreds more of the ebook (at a better royalty) or there are people reading your book on their Kindle all over the world, that pound of paper and ink is what makes you a real writer in other’s eyes.

And now I’m starting to ramble.

Press on.

What else can you do?

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