Recently the real world has been intruding into my writing life. I’ve had to do extra hours at the day-job, and weekends have been – pleasantly – filled with festivals. Much of the time I have spent in t’garret hasn’t been on actual wordsmithing. With the detailed comments on CONSORTS back from my editor, I’ve been considering how I can make the changes she’d like – none of them world-shattering, but most of them challenging – and what work I have done on GUARDIANS has mainly been outlining and research.
Which, in some ways, is fine by me. Because I dislike writing first drafts, especially beginnings. The process of getting those initial words down on the virtual page is best described using scatalogical metaphors: it’s either like trying to pass a melon – agonising, slow, very hard work – or else it comes out in a formless and uncontrolled stream which, on closer examination, really stinks.
Given this, the excuse not to write was, at one level, quite welcome. But deadlines wait for no woman, and whilst my preferred target of two new chapters a week has been totally unrealistic for the last few weeks, before I departed for this week’s festival I was determined to at least finish the chapter I’d been fiddling with for the last week.
So I did. And I really enjoyed doing it. I can’t remember the last time I savoured the experience of writing so much. It helps that I’m dealing with characters I know well, but even so I was surprised at the steady, easy pace I managed. And I was delighted with what was emerging from my head. Every word felt right as I wrote it, something I almost never get in first drafts.
I know from experience that the first drafts I find easiest to write tend to be the ones that turn out, on examination by critiquers or by myself after a decent interval, to be, ahem, in need of the most work. This may well be true of what I’ve done this week. I also know that I’m on the easy bit of the book, the section where I know what everyone’s up to, and they haven’t started to go off and do stuff that messes up my nice neat plot. But even if very little of what I wrote survives to the final draft, it was time well spent.