Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Not to do When You're Finished

Mood: Moody as hell...

Currently on my IPOD:
Love Song: Sara Bareilles

Quote of the Week:

If a fear cannot be articulated, then it can't be conquered.
Salem's Lot
~Stephen King

Weather in Colorado Springs today:
Scared shitless clouds lingering above my forehead causing wind gusts that take away my ability to reason.

Dear Family, Friends and Whatnots,

I'm going to start today out with another quote. This one happens to come from my current IPOD song and the song on my profile, Love Song. I am mildly obsessed with this gal, her voice is so refreshing and calming. Here it goes,
I've learned the hard way that they all say the things you want to hear...Your twisted words, your help just hurts and you're not who I thought you were, hello to high and dry....I'm trying to let you hear me as I am...

No, I'm not talking about anyone in my life except for me. The change that has taken place in me since I started this process has been enormous. If you haven't written a word in your life, or if you've been wanting to and you don't want to change as a person in the process, then don't start writing. Leave the dream behind, because it will change you.

As you may have guessed by the title of the blog, I've finished the first draft. Word Count: 112,579. Translated into pages: Around 400-ish depending on your font. Translated into time spent on the draft: A whole shitload of time. Mike Neff, upon hearing of my intent on what I want to accomplish in this novel before I even put the first words on the page, looked at me with very serious eyes and politely patted my head and then said, this is going to be the absolute hardest thing you will ever do. And Mike, if you're reading this, I can say with complete honesty that YOU WERE RIGHT!

What is that Mastercard commercial? Oh yeah...

One reem of gleeming, untainted paper at Office Max: 22.75
Printer Ink Cartridge: 29.50
Having your grandiose idea come to life as a shitty first draft (thank you Anne Lamott for the phrase) over the period of a year and a quarter: Priceless

Or is it?

Sanity status: Not good. I'm completely spent and now I find myself out of coupons for the excuse of insanity. So, I have decided to host the world's largest pity party. Come on over and join me in the post-shitty-draft let down. We will drink, eat VERY fattening food (including boxes upon boxes upon boxes of Thin Mints) and read the most awful writing ever to grace dead tree rubbish. Sounds like fun, eh?

After having killed numerous men on paper, wrecked a few dozen lives and letting my house go to utter hell, I am done. You might be telling yourself, Cicily, so get on with it, get over it, deal with it and keep going. People do this every friggin day! Or you might be saying, shut the hell up already.

But, as per my usual, I am going to bestow my writerly wisdom (unfounded) upon you because I love you and I don't want you to inflict this kind of emotional wreckage upon yourself or anyone else in your life during your writing process. Or if you do or already have done this, then you can say, hey, Cicily warned me about this and maybe I should have listened. And that is, only if you can find the source inside of you that gives you the ability to reason. Which is something I don't quite have at the moment. So forgive, listen up and pass the Lemon Drop Martini Mix my way, please...

In Letterman fashion:

Top ten things NOT to do when you finish your first draft.
(These are in order of worst sin to weaker sin)

10. Submit it. I guarantee that if you submit your first draft now, you will get a rejection. Especially if you wrote it over any amount of time that was more than one day. The stuff in the beginning is going to be worse than the stuff at the end, right? So, leave it in your drawer, hard drive or package of Moth Balls for now.

9. Jump off a bridge. First off, the whole thing about having a MS being worth more money after you are dead only applies if you are someone like Richard Russo, John Irving, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates etc...A manuscript by me, you or some other no name is just going to provide more evidence as to your insanity and probably cause the Life Insurance company to withhold the money they would have given your family. So, please, stay alive until you can pull either your death or the book off properly and believably and evocatively.

8. Delete the manuscript. Unless you have it for-sure backed up on a flash drive or in your editor's inbox, DO NOT DELETE THE MS. Sure, it may be the worst writing since that book about everyone pooping that you have to read your children at night while potty training, but for now, that is not your problem. Step away from the delete button. ***Clause: If it is backed up sufficiently and you know this for a fact, and it will make you feel better to hit that damn button at the top right hand corner of your keyboard, then by all means go ahead and do it.***

7. Eat WAY too many boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and take up alcoholism as a hobby. This will only make you fat and even more depressed than you already are. Now, if during the process, you have already taken up Alcoholism and carb-consumption as a hobby, then that is an entirely different matter. Come on over to Cicily's ten step program... I hold meetings twice a week at the local bar and I buy all the drinks and fried Twinkies you can manage to put down your digestive tract. Who am I to stop you from killing your liver and giving the Mayo Clinic and John's Hopkins more patients to study the effects of fried foods and Alcohol on mood and liver? I'm all for funding and supporting medical research. Oh, and on the bit about Girl Scout Cookies...They only come once a year, so stock up.

6. Read your manuscript from cover to cover. Yeah, not a good idea. This is what started this pity party in the first place. My editor, Ian, told me to take a break from it no matter what. Don't even touch it. Leave it the hell alone. Don't worry it won't change or starve without you, just leave it alone. I didn't listen. I started to read over it today and realized that it was going to take an act of God or Buddha to straighten it out to be the story I intended for it to be. I crumbled into an oblivion. If you can write a first draft, you can re-write a first draft. That is, unless you have your spouse, friend, or neighbor, run over your hands with their car. Don't do that either.

5. Put it away for good. It's okay and even necessary to put it down for a short amount of time to breathe and re-think some things, but putting it away for good, is not the right thing to do. Even if it means you don't touch it again until the year 2020, when you might have better vision on what's going on...that's okay. Just don't give up. Who knows, during the revision process, you might actually realize that YOU DO HAVE SOMETHING WORTH SALVAGING. It may be that you have to re-write the story in a completely different POV, but that's okay. What's your rush anyway? The world has waited this long to hear what you have to say, so a few more billion years won't hurt a damn thing.

4. Post the entire draft on your website or some public site like Edit Red or Writers Cafe. Guess what, you do this and you can consider it published. Which means that even if the MS is absolutely the most brilliant set of words ever written and the Pulitzer and Publisher's Clearing House gang is driving to your house anytime now, a publisher won't consider it. Not even for a second. Plus, its different than publishing a part of the draft on a closed, password locked internet workshop where the public doesn't have access, but pubbing the whole draft and especially if it is particularly brilliant, you run the risk of having someone claim it as their own. Small risk, but why take the chance?

3. Send it to your mother.
The only thing she is going to do is give you false hope that it is perfect just the way it is. I'll save you the postage, email time and phone call: Your mother: " My little Johnny, you make me so proud. You're the most brilliant writer ever...and good looking too. Don't worry sweetie, you'll not only find a real princess to marry, but you'll be the most famous writer that has ever lived." You'll thank me for that later. ***Disclaimer: Unless your mother is a literary agent in NY or an editor at Random House, I suggest you follow this bit of advice.*** Instead, promise her the first edition copy in hardback after its been published and get her opinion at that point in time.

2. Destroy your laptop or computer. This is for the same reason you shouldn't delete the manuscript. Plus, how would you gain access to my blog to read it?

1. Consider it done. Your work has only just begun...Wait, I hear a Carpenter's song coming on...We've only just begun..to love... Okay, I'll stop singing out loud my favorite seventies love songs and save the karaoke blog for youtube. Revision is in order, possibly a rewrite, and then its your job or your editors job to make sure you rinse and repeat as necessary until desired results are achieved. Right? Right.

I appreciate all of your support, your love and your cheers and jeers throughout my process. I know its all been done before, but this is the first time I've really done it. And no, I am not the same person as before this project, but after all of this self doubt begins to head south, hopefully, I will be better than myself.

Have a wonderful weekend and comment if you want.

Yours in Self-Doubt, Shitty First Drafts and Serving No Purpose with this Attitude,

Cicily






1 comment:

Travis Erwin said...

Congrats on finishing.