Thursday, November 1, 2007

That Blasted First Draft by Sharlene MacLaren

I'd like to welcome author Shar MacLaren to our blog today. She is the author of three novels, the most recent is Sarah, My Beloved released by Whitaker House.

An author friend wrote to me nearly in tears, speaking of her utter frustration with writing/completing the first draft of her chick-lit novel. She was “stuck” and couldn’t seem to work her way out of the mire and muck of non-flowing ideas, pointless paragraphs that weren’t leading to a conclusion, and downright fear that perhaps she’d never finish it. At a recent writing class she’d attended, the well-meaning instructor had told her students they should write EVERY day, even if it meant sitting at their computers and keying in a line of question marks. At least they’ve written something and helped to keep the river flowing, she’d told them. My question to that is…WHAT?

Okay, here’s what I wrote in response to my dear friend’s plea for help.


I feel your pain, I honestly do. I don't know how many actual mss I've written, but I'm about to see my fifth pubbed book and sign a contract for another three-book series (all praise and honor to God, my Father, by the way!). I'm rewriting, reworking a couple of older mss trying to get them ready for publication, but the others may just sit in a "kettle" on a back burner and rot, never again to see the light of day, since they're not worthy of my even lifting the lid on them right now! But that’s okay. I wrote them in “the early days” and maybe I didn’t know quite as much then as I do now.

I'm probably in the minority here, and might get "the boot", but I no longer ascribe to the theory that a writer should just write for the sake of writing, even if it's a line of “????”. Huh? That keeps the flow going? What it does in my opinion, is make more work for me, the writer, when I have to go back and hit the delete key! Yes, I try as hard as I can to write something every day, but I try my darnedest to make it something relevant to my story. THAT might get deleted later, but not a bunch of blather that I knew right from the start was never going to fly because all I was doing was filling in space for the sake of saying I was writing.

Okay, when I get "stuck", the best thing for me to do is let my writing rest. I take a day or two or five. After that, I'm refreshed, my mind feels "alive" again, I've got new ideas flowing, I don't feel as frustrated, my brain is literally singing. Why? I've given it a chance to "reboot". Even computers need to be shut down once in a while (I think) just to clear their "heads" and start anew.

This third book in my series, "Courting Emma", was the first book I ever had to write under deadline. Granted, I had about 9 months to complete it b/c when I signed the contract, I'd already finished the first two--and those at my leisure. But even with nine months, believe me, I had moments of total panic! What if I couldn't do it? What if my mind dried up? What if my river of ideas stopped flowing? What if I couldn't come up with enough scenarios to keep the story interesting? TONS OF PRAYERS flew past my lips as some nights I lay trying to sleep--or perhaps while I sat in front of my computer and stared at that stupid sentence that hadn't changed in three days.
I learned a couple of things throughout this nine-month stop-and-go process of completing the third book in my series. I CAN finish something I start. (It just takes charging through thick walls.) Aren't you glad I shared that?

It's okay to take some time off when you feel blaahh and kind of dead inside. If you're a true writer (and YOU ARE or you wouldn’t be so frustrated), the energy and fire will rekindle itself. Don't beat yourself up over it.

If you've written something, say an entire paragraph, or even a couple of pages, and your first instinct tells you you're going in the wrong direction, make no doubt about it, you're going in the wrong direction. (That's God's still, small voice giving you fair warning.) If you don't delete it now, you will delete it later. Why wait?

I'm not saying you need to try to make everything perfect the first time around. All authors have to edit, edit, edit once they've completed the first draft, but try to make it as "right as possible" the first time, even if that means giving it a few days rest. It will come back to you, this burning desire to write, to grow your baby into an adult. You will bring it to completion. It's a process. It takes time and patience. If you don’t bring it to completion then maybe it’s one of those that will have to sit in a kettle on a back burner for a while. That’s okay. It’s not going anywhere.

And most important,If you're a true writer, GOD PLANTED THAT SEED OF PASSION! He will help you nurture it. It is by His might and power that you’re able to write--even on those days when it's not quite so fun or energizing.

Don't give up, because, whether you realize it every day of your life or not, GOD HAS PLANS FOR YOU! I didn’t start writing until I’d passed the mid-life point (age 52) and I’m experiencing more fulfillment today than ever before.

He is a good and faithful God, generous to a fault, forever and fanatically chasing us down! Slow down and let Him catch you. Listen to His words. Don’t fear, don’t panic.


He will guide you in the “write” direction.


Rachelle G. said...

So true, wonderful words of wisdom here. (But I guess this month we don't get a day off, right?)

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany said...


No days off for the NaNoWriMo's!!