The first bout of writing momentum has worn off: that first big oomph that carries me over the hurdle of the deaf-and-dumb blank pages, over the hurdle of it's-been-too-long-since-I've-done-this.
The first few days of a draft are a brass band clanging through the heart, and all the trumpets are blaring, YOU CAN DO IT!
But now it's week two. I've waded over 13,000 words into this story. And while there's still a fair amount of oompah-oompah going on, I'm also faced with the general suckiness of the first draft.
The characters are first draft characters, which means they are shrill, they don't argue enough with each other (or, terribly, all they do is argue), or sometimes they drop out of the story all together. They move in fits and starts, jerking around, and I get into hovering-author mode, meaning I write breathtaking sequences such as: She stood. She moved near the door. She bit her lip. She sat down again.
This makes for thrilling fiction.
Not to be outdone, the settings are first draft settings. I've scrounged around in my imagination and come up with a few dusty props: some old trees leftover from a deleted chunk of a different novel; a tent that I imagined up for half a short story a few years ago; and then a weird taxidermy deer that appeared out of nowhere but seemed useful after I brushed off the cobwebs...
In other words, I'm blocking out the story in big broad strokes. The details are pretty darn hazy, which means the writing fills up with adverbs and adjectives: the discount construction paper and paste of the fiction world.
I begin each session by rereading what I wrote yesterday, which means I'm all grounded in my storyworld again. Yay.
... But which also means that my toes are still curling from the awkward word choice and totally goofy dialogue that came out of no human mouth ever, not for this story or any other.
I get discouraged, is what I'm saying.
And I feel very sure that the knack for dishing out good words--if I ever had such a knack--has completely left me. The talent-o-meter readings are negative.
So it's good to remember this quote. (Yes! A quote! You knew where this was going.)
Well, that is all kinds of cheering.
It's not about busting out beautiful prose on the first try, but more about being so darned stubborn and bullheaded that I will keep practicing, and practicing, and practicing.
Stretch out my toes, from that strenuous toe-curling, and then practice some more.
It's too easy to take a look at the crappiness of a first draft, sling my desk chair through my computer screen, and decide on another career.
But I think I'll be stubborn. I think I'll keep practicing.
I think I'll stick with this one.
The most important talent might be the talent for practice itself. -- Atul Gawande