A Drafting Lesson

I mentioned in my last post that I'm working on a short story for an anthology. I shared my inspirations, a song, and a picture.

Well. I killed that story.

Sometimes that happens. Sometimes, you just figure out you're writing the wrong thing. Not that the original story was bad, or that it couldn't have been good with a lot of work, but it was not the story I was meant to be writing. After I admitted it, closed the Word doc, and opened a new one, I was flooded with an immense sense of relief.

And I started playing around with new ideas.

I love to play, and to me it's one of the most important and intergal parts of the writing process. When the ideas in my head are wispy thoughts instead of words on paper, I'm way more likely to take risks. Risks are important. Really important.

Thanks to some frustrated bitching that turned into a silly suggestion-fest that morphed into valuable brainstorming (thank you Rachel Hawkins), I came up with a new story idea.

Largely, because of time constraints (*cough* DEADLINE *cough*), I needed to follow the story to the end, to make sure the plot I had in mind would work before I invested a lot of time in it. So I got ready to buckle down. I drafted the whole thing in twenty-four hours. Four thousand words worth of drafting. *KAPOW*

Because ....... this happened.

Illustration by Allie of Hyperbole and a Half

I wrote the absolute ugliest draft I've ever seen in my life, and behold, it was GLORIOUS.

Here's why. 

I'm a Piddler. A Picker. A Can't Leave It Aloner. I almost got over my issues while writing TIMEPIECE (the first time), but then I realized the whole thing was Wrong in That Wrong Way, and I stopped being cognizant, and I just wrote nouns and verbs and prayed for it to be over. (The second time I wrote TIMEPIECE was much more pleasurable, and the results make me smile like a loon instead of looking for a trash can in which to vomit.) 

But in this short story situation, I felt free while writing the draft. FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I pounded away at my keyboard happily. There was a deranged sort of blissful madness in going balls out crazy with the story. 


You get in your own way. I'd already started writing today's post when I saw this from my friend Jodi Meadows. She's referencing editorial revisions, but it's applicable, and it's right.

I'm going to start revising my ugly and glorious short right now, but first I'm going to leave you with a word or two: 

Revision is where real writers are born, and where the smart ones choose to linger. 

I don't think I'll look as gleeful as the picture above while I work, but I'll be just as happy on the other side. 


  1. Perfect post for NaNo! Yay! Now...if I ever make it to revisions, i might more closely resemble that gleeful computerist:)

  2. It's so interesting to read this, because when we first started writing the Novel That We Finished O.M.G., the revision process - the idea of revisions, even - scared the hell out of me. But I found it to be the most satisfying part of the process. You write this thing that may or may not really suck, and then over time you tweak and add and delete and shape, and LO AND BEHOLD you make a book that flows and makes sense and entertains readers. So, yay revisions! I'm with you. They're the best part of the process.

  3. And, if I were to revise that post, I would perhaps use the word process 1-2 fewer times. Just saying.

  4. I love love love that photo! It totally makes me happy. And happy that you experienced that.

  5. I'm a picker, too, so I'm having to remind myself not to do this while I'm drafting my wip. And not to get bogged down by the details or I won't make it to a second draft.

    Great advice, and perfect illustration!

  6. YAY! I think it's an understatement to say I'm looking forward to reading this.

    In the daytime. With all the lights on.

  7. Can I just say that you are all kinds of awesome for referencing Hyperbole and a Half?

    Oh, and for being an amazing writer. That is all.

  8. Oh for the love of trees Miss Myra you make me laugh. Complete with audible, and nowhere dainty, snorts and guffaws. (((HUG)))

  9. Thanks! I needed to read this today as I'm pounding through NaNo. This first draft might be crap, but there's always REVISION! :) Love your quote at the end!

    Thanks, Myra!


  10. Bad is SO GOOD!

    Last year, I brought the chicken-scratchiest thing ever to my writing group: 4 pages of word vomit for an NEH fellowship essay.

    My lovely group was flabbergasted. One pal asked if all the paragraphs were introductions.

    But after just getting started with that hilarious mess, I was able to shave it all down and flush it out in no time. And I got the fellowship: 5 weeks on Oahu last summer!

    Keep writing!


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