Friday, August 13, 2010

Overcoming the Nausea of the First [Vomit] Draft

I have been sporadic with my writing as many can testify, but where procrastination ends the I-don’t-wanna syndrome takes place. However, this is not the fear of starting a new project. It is the more annoying nuance to why I am not writing as fast as I know I can. It has to do with the vomit draft and the writerly squeamishness that is attached to it.

As artsy people, writers’ minds are the habitat for dignified, breath-stopping concepts, tightly wrapped in integrity and emotions to keep the readers glued to the page. But we’re human; we err. Somewhere along the trip brain-to-fingertips our emotionally multi-hued heroine becomes a whiny, self-righteous mess [or Kesha, depending on just how inebriated the creative mind is before a session]. Our witty ‘oh snap’-inducing repartees degrade to an argument shared by pissed off six-graders and the narrator sounds as if we have enabled the Voice Recognition on MS Word and dictated everything, only to go ‘huh’ afterwards.

You have been through this and this is where I am currently am, trying to not edit everything I write cause my protagonist sounds like a melodramatic cardboard cut-out. This is the limbo called The Vomit Draft. You know what the story looks and feels like, but the result on the page/screen can be described as a distant relative at best. It poses the really deep question as to why aren’t we hooked to get it right the first time. I’m not even going to try and answer. It is the way it is and writers get screwed with drafting and editing, until we’re clinically insane.

BUT I am sidetracking again and using crass, inappropriate language. The deal is that if I let the vomit draft win, I will most certainly never complete my manuscript [by the way, this is a déjà vu, so don’t assume I was deflowered], because I would be caught in a circle. Write and then rewrite, while at the same time the vibe I shared with the story would sly away. It’s to try and redecorate, while the foundations are still being laid and the skillets all over the place.

So I started thinking what to do, which morphed into this blog post. Here are my strategies to get this vomit draft over with.

#1 It’s All About Getting It Done: This is a classic psychological trick guaranteed to work, if you possess the needed determination and mental fortitude. I do not, so I whisper this in the dark after a meltdown and a tub of ice cream [I need to be stereotypical]. After all, it is about getting it done and the looks do not matter. This is sage advice, handed over from author to author since time immemorial. With enough constant repetition it actually makes you blind to the suckiness and lets you concentrate on the story, which like all trophy wives needs constant attention. I pulled this one successfully, when I hit the middle of my last novel.

#2 Be Anal With What You Feel Is Wrong: While I write, I either pause for fifteen minutes on each sentence or I just write and go ‘oh’, ‘ah’, ‘this one’s a doozy’. It’s akin to driving over things and giving yourself advice in retrospect. This is definitely a new for me technique and involve rereading the written material, noting what needs to be changed and how during the re-writes. This is a good approach, because you gain the momentum and crank that draft at an accelerated speed. I also get the satisfaction of having a quick and clever mind that spots the mistakes from the get-go and these notes are definitely a lifeline during the edits. I’m sure that the Track Changes options in MS Word allow this to be a smooth sailing, but I am a dead tree defiler so I write the notes down.

# 3 Plan Before Battle I am not a great pantser. I feel confused right before starting and then I have issues with happens next, which coupled with the stalling nature of the Vomit Draft is a big obstacle for me personally, because after all we are individuals and problems vary. I’m quite fond of the chapter outlines. I write the opening, the dialogue schematics and the ending. These are the three needed components and the rest can be fleshed out. It makes the process a lot faster and the faster you conclude each writing session or the more you produce per one session gets you marginally closer to the ending.

# 4 Mhm, don’t look at the screen? Apart from the annoying MS Word grammar and spelling checkers that distract and cut up the writing flow into continuous trips to fix what sometimes the grammar checker gets wrong. Also not looking at the screen prevents you from seeing the ultimate carnage you are inflicting on your characters, the world and the stories. With that out of the immediate focus and you write and write and write and post-pone the horror for a lot later. Fun, no?

These are my few coping mechanisms with the great void between what’s inside my head and what my head actually gets done. Currently I am just doing a lot of # 4…

I am open to suggestions to get over this phase. Share how you wade through the early incarnations of your novels.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've actually tried turning off my monitor while writing the rough drafts, or writing in white on white so I can't see what I'm writing. Especially if it's a really difficult start, this can help. I suggested this is as a possiblity in Write With Fire.

T.S. Bazelli said...

One thing I can't do is read my previous writing before getting to the current day's writing. I just have to keep writing forward as fast as I can (to out type my internal editor).

Harry Markov said...

@ Charles: I didn't thought of going that extreme. For me it was enough to just focus on the keyboard and not even pay attention to the screen.

@ Tessa: I know. I did that and it was crippling. Ouch. I was very, very horrified. I imagine that with you it's more difficult cause you are an editor in general.