Friday, July 25, 2014

Those Mid-way Mid-draft Blues


Writing is such a weird business. You go days, weeks, months (sometimes years) thinking of nothing but the story you are working. Everything you read, watch, think is basically related to these characters and their world – even when it isn’t.

 

You crawl through the muck of that first draft. Dragging every godawful little word out one by one. Then finally you’ve got something coherent enough to be called “a first draft,” and off it goes to your editor. Who swallows bravely and tries to make sense of it before she bounces it back.

 

There is incredible jubilation after that first draft. Partly because nothing is more difficult than carving that “think” out of the concrete block your brain turns into. But then comes the second draft. That is when you feel the power and the glory (such as it is) of what it is to know your craft. The second draft is the fun draft. It is really, in my opinion, the only joyful part of the writing process. When you take that raw material, look at it with fresh eyes, and you suddenly understand what you were struggling to say.

 

The more time between drafts, the better, in my opinion, but modern publishing doesn’t really allow for this. If you steal yourself an extra week somewhere you are doing great (and giving production teams nightmares).

 

The first draft is just about…getting there. Arriving muddied and bloodied on the doorstep. The second draft is about writing. It’s about how you will shower, dress, and seduce the reader into losing her or himself in the story. It is about clarifying theme and refining characterization, it is about nitpicking every adjective (Dear God, how many times have I said dryly this time? – PLEASE tell me no one “swallowed hard,” etc.) It is the one stage in a long process where you feel like you maybe know what the hell you’re doing.

 

But then you hand that second draft off, and there is a real sense of letdown. Almost depression. Because no matter how hard you tried, the infinite possibilities for this story are gone. The story is what it is. It is now limited in what it can be and what it can achieve. And from this point on the changes are minor ones – you did not explain how Character A knew Character B was stealing eggs from the Farm at C. You repeated a phrase too many times. That kind of thing. The fate of the story is now determined. It is the kind of story it is, and you can already hear both the praise and the criticism.  

 

There is definitely relief – great relief. The book is done. If you were to die at this point, the book could still go forward. It no longer really even needs you. Anyone can do these edits.

 

And so there is a kind of letdown. We start every story with a sense of excitement and endless possibility. Whether you outline or not, every story begins with endless possibility. But by the end of the second draft, this story has narrowed to a particular set of events with a determined outcome. You know how it ends.

 

And that’s where I am this morning. I sent Fair Play off yesterday afternoon and today I feel…meh. I loved writing it. I loved researching Washington and the Puget Sound and the anti-war movement of the 1960s. I learned about Black Bull whisky and Montreal and organic farming. But now it is done and there is a definite letdown.

 

We talk about reader addiction, but I think there is writer addiction too. And that is never more clear than when the rewrite is handed off and that particular high is finished. Done. No amount of accepting commas and removing echoes can bring it back.

 

But there is always the next story…

 

And in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy seeing the cover reveal for Fair Play!

 

92 comments:

  1. Love the cover, and I know I'll love the story. You know I am a child of the 60s and I'm looking forward to a look back. :-) I can't wait for you to get excited/nervous/wreckedexcited over the next story. And the next. Well done, J.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's moody and it works well with Fair Play, I think. Okay, granted he is pretty bundled up for June, but...he catches cold easily! :-D

      Thanks, M! I did really enjoy the research on this one.

      Delete
    2. I'm a FL girl, I'm sure I would be bundled up in WA in June. It didn't strike me as odd. :-)

      Delete
  2. The cover is beauuuutiful! As always, i thoroughly enjoyed reading your insights on writing. So lovely to hear about that exciting stage of the second draft. Wishing you many many more exciting story times! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Boy With the Painful Tattoo is next up on the examining table, so much more agony and ecstasy await. :-D

      Delete
    2. Ooooh, i like the sound of all that (except for the agony part, which i hope will be close to non-existent)
      :-)

      Delete
    3. Ha! Sometimes I wonder if the agony isn't the best part!

      Delete
  3. First of all, I am completely in love with that cover. Just, completely.
    There, now that that's said, I am also sorry for your funk. I don't think it can be helped. You just did an amazing job of raising this little niggle, this idea, that was stuck in the back of your brain which turned into this awesome, fantastic story. Now it's walked out the door, heading off to college, to live it's life independent of you. Wait, we were talking about books and not kids, right? ;) I'm teasing, but just a little...and very gently. You've worked long and hard creating this wonderful thing and now you're letting it out for the world to see. It was just yours and now it's going to be shared. We, the readers, get the benefit of all your hard work, your sweat and tears. What's not to get funky about? I say welcome the funk. You deserve it. It will probably only last until that next little niggle starts tickling the back of your brain and you need to examine it. Until then, I think you should go enjoy the pool and the sunshine...and be proud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cover has a lovely sort of elegiac quality, which is right for this story, I think. Thanks, Karan.

      Yes, it is sort of a...relinquishing the story to the world. It is no longer just mine at this point.

      And it is strange how stories do evolve from an idea. We all -- even the most controlled artist among us -- do lose a certain amount of control because that is the creative process. The process is an organic one and ideas develop as we go. That's a good thing! But it is a strange thing too.

      Delete
  4. Very interesting, Josh. I never really thought about how the relief of finishing must be mixed with an equal amount of regret. I am *very* grateful that you do share your characters and stories with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You really do lose yourself in that world of your imagination. The challenge is making the reader lose her or himself too.

      Delete
  5. I'm waiting expectantly, because I´ve just finished Fair Game and this second part, Fair Play I sure will be wonderful. I love the cover too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so! I did love exploring the dynamics between Elliot and Tucker. I got a lot of pleasure out writing this one. I just hope that translates to the reader!

      Delete
  6. Ooh, this is so familiar! I'm reminded by a brilliant quote: Here’s how you write a play. You do a lot of writing to figure out what the hell the play’s about and throw out three-quarters of that and write it again and find out what that play’s about and throw out three-quarters of it and write it again. – David Mameth

    I'm looking forward to the book! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is all about the layers. Which is why no one can completely control or predict what the finished product will be. The finished product evolves from what happens in each round of writing. It's wonderful and weird.

      Delete
    2. It is! :) I think of it as a net that I draw tighter for each revision... But the first draft is less an actual skeleton than a jumble of bones. I always get to a point where I'm tempted to take a lot of shortcuts because it's such a mess... And then I read stories like yours and it looks as if it just came out in one piece :D I can never believe that other writers struggle at all! Okay, I'll stop rambling now, but it was such a spot-on post that I had to comment :).

      Delete
    3. I think the only people who have painless first drafts are aspiring and very new writers. When you don't know what you're doing, the words FLY. But once you actually know something...it really is not an easy process, and the more you write, the harder it becomes because now on top of everything else you must try not to repeat yourself too much. :-D

      Delete
    4. Ouch... yeah. :D I've only just started to realize this - so it's only going to get worse? :) (I repeat the strangest things, like people having injured hands - what's that about??)

      Delete
    5. That's an interesting one. Yes, when you see patterns like that, you know it's not just coincidence. It might be subconscious, but something is going on there. Because so much of writing is us working out our own stuff.

      Delete
    6. ... and they sometimes (fortunately) coincide with the reader's need for working out the same stuff, which means that I don't much mind some repetitions in the books I read :). (I could, for example, read any number of Parting Glasses...) OK, shutting up now! :)

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Goops. I oofed. I didn't mean to delete that last post. Comment: take two. Great cover. So looking forward to the book. And, yes, I have quit reading a book after a few pages due to the overabundance of exclamation points. Hello. Where was this author's editor?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. A good copyeditor is worth her weight in gold.

      That said, word echo is a modern sensitivity. It's interesting in that even a decade ago, no publisher or author was particularly concerned with word echo. Now it is a huge bugaboo. But it is artificial too. And it can actually drive an author to contrived, stiff writing in that quest for a new and different word.

      Delete
    2. At the same time, if done correctly, meaning not overdone, it can really drive home a particular image or feeling. But again, hopefully the editor would have the balls to say whether it works....

      Delete
    3. Honestly? I've never had an editor hesitate to tell me what he or she thought. It doesn't mean I'll always agree, but I certainly want to hear the truth. Otherwise, what's the point?

      Delete
    4. Yeah. Although the person I'm thinking of isn't editing anymore...I wonder why...

      Delete
    5. Maybe they were paid in book copies instead of money? That ought to do it. ;-)

      Delete
    6. I should have mentioned she was trying to get experience by putting together compilation books of fan fiction that she would sell at sci-fi conventions. Unfortunately if any of us wanted feed-back on our stories we were better off asking the other contributing authors. She was a nice person though. Probably too nice. OMG did I just admit to being a sci-fi nerd!?

      Delete
    7. We have admitted to far worse things here. ;-)

      Delete
  9. What a beautiful cover! Letting go can give you the blues, I know from experience ;) I can't wait for this book release, so thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sylvia! Yes, I love that cover. I don't know if I have many red covers. It's a nice change.

      Delete
  10. Josh, what a beautiful companion cover to Fair Game. Not to get ahead of things, but the two of them in print would be a gorgeous set.

    Sorry about the emotional letdown. The unfortunate truth is: eventually you have to let go of your creation to give others the chance to enjoy it too. It does put you on a crazy rollercoaster ride, that's for sure. Hopefully you can get equal joy out of knowing so many readers will be as thrilled as you were when you realized your finished product. Thank you for sharing with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Susan. Yes. As satisfying as the writing is, I do want to share my stories, so this is a necessary part of the process. Even if every single time it feels like I'm having to learn it all over again.

      Delete
  11. Great cover. Can't wait for the story itself. But I know these things take time.

    Do you find that your characters will start talking to you at odd times? Such as, when you're working on something else, or while working the day job? and then, you have to steal minutes getting down the good stuff to use later? Or am I the only one with voices in their head saying, "And then I did...."?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, this is the day job, so the voices get free rein. Or maybe I'm increasingly psychotic and I don't realize it yet. :-D

      I do run dialog all the time...swimming, gardening, driving. Unless I am actually conversing with another person or reading, I am pretty much always thinking something to do with writing.

      The worst part is at night when something comes to me and I'm too tired to get up and write it down. ;-D

      Delete
  12. Wow you're so prolific Josh, thank goodness. How many days do you allow yourself to mourn the handing over of the second draft before you pick up your pen again?
    Really looking forward to reading Fair Play. Have you got a release date yet - I need to make time to read Fair Game again in readiness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's best not to take too long to start work again or that writing muscle starts to freeze up. But I usually take a few days -- sometimes a month. If I say I take a month though, it gives the impression that I am sitting around watching TV and drinking wine and eating chocolates. It's more like doing research for the next project, catching up on weeks worth of emails, etc.

      Today, for example, was spent -- all fricking ten hours of it so far -- on translations and foreign rights.

      When I'm not writing, I'm trying to catch up -- because when I am writing, there really is no energy or interest in anything else. It is all consuming, especially in that second draft.

      Delete
  13. Josh, that was very interesting to read. It was obvious for me, that you are not the airy version of an author. That to write the first draft is more than stressful and taxing. But I was hoping, that you have a longer time to be happy, when you have done your work! I can understand, why that is not case. In a way is it comparable with the making of diamonds, you need a high amount of pressure to get those. I appreciate it highly, that you go through this every time, when you write a story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, there are many good parts of this too. I don't mean to make it sound like it's all hell and high water.

      I earn a decent living (at least for now) and hearing from readers when they love a story -- and very rarely does a day go by I don't get a lovely letter or two -- always makes me happy, always reminds me why we go through the pain in the ass of writing to publish.

      But there is a definite drop when the current story closes its doors and you're back out in the cold . :-D

      Delete
  14. Thank you sharing your thoughts and for the preview of the beautiful cover. I hope you'll soon ''recover''.

    Warm Greetings from hot Finnland ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I ALWAYS picture Finland as cold. In fact, it even went through my mind...how can it be hot when they were petting reindeer? :-D

      Delete
  15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the writing process with us, Josh. I find it endlessly fascinating to read about the different phases and steps — how they make you feel and how you see the story taking form in your hands.

    It seems to me that the beauty of creative process is that it's awful and wonderful at the same time. And I'm absolutely sure that you nailed it. :-) Congratulations for making it over the finishing line! And congratulations for the beautiful, alluring new cover. I really like how it looks both passionate and serene — an intriguing combination. It's a great pair for the Fair Game!

    Don't forget to pamper yourself a bit now, dear Josh. You've so deserved it. More warm hugs from hot Finland. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you all don't mind me babbling about the writing process, Johanna. It's funny because I have been through it...well, so many times now. And yet the let down is always surprising. Just as the difficulty of the first draft is always surprising.

      But I guess the creative process is an emotional process. Even though craft and technique are not emotional, storytelling itself is.

      Delete
  16. I am curious. How do you feel on release day? Are you giddy like us or stressed because of promoting? Congratulations on completing the second draft. November is sooooo far away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I look forward to release days. For one thing, this is my living; I don't start earning back the investment on a project until it releases. So there's relief in that finally money will be coming in again. Hallefrickinlujah. :-)

      But the real joy is hearing from the readers who enjoyed the book. Those readers are the real reason for going through the pain of publishing. You want to hear from the people who understood, who responded to what you were trying to say, and who appreciated the time and effort you put in. Those are the people you keep publishing for.

      You write for yourself, but you publish for others.

      Delete
  17. I'm glad you've finished the novel and start new projects ;-)
    And I really like the cover.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow! I just finished listening to Fair Game last night for about the thirtieth time. No joke. I have a handful of books that I pull out to read/listen to when I'M in a reading funk and that was the one yesterday. Love the narrator by the way. Soooo I can't wait for this new one to come out. Please say you're going to put it out in audiobook also?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I let the audio rights go on this one -- so it's going to be up to Carina and Audible whether it makes it into audio. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

      Delete
  19. Happy to know that "Fair Play" has hit your letdown phase because that means it's done. Not happy that you have the writer blues, however temporary they may be. I also just finished re-reading my print copy of "Fair Game." I hope Carina is doing well enough with this print trial that they decide to continue. I just love seeing the print copies of your books lined up on my bookshelves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. It is done. Returned another couple of rounds of tiny edits yesterday. :-) So I believe it is time to turn my attention to Boy With the Painful Tattoo.

      Delete
  20. It's funny, you talking about this here & Alexis Hall did a post on essentially the same thing over at Wonk-O-Romance recently: http://wonkomance.com/2014/07/17/dont-know-how-to-say-goodbye/

    I guess it's fairly universal :-)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Mucha suerte con el libro que entregaste.
    Y quisiera agradecerte profundamente el que hayas incluido una traducción en mi idioma de "The French Hav a Word for It" (Los franceses lo dicen así).
    Ojalá esto se haga una costumbre.
    Mucha suerte en todos tus proyectos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gracias! That's very kind.

      I should probably point out that this is not my first foray into Spanish translation though.

      http://amzn.to/1o67MFL

      Delete
  22. Muchas gracias por todo tu talento, me gustan mucho tus historias, ojala hubiese la posibilidad que hubieran mas en español, somo muchos tus admiradores y fanaticos que nos vemos imposibilitados por el idioma.

    Gracias por el libro Los Franceses lo dicen asi, me ha gustado mucho y especialmente porque esta en español, saludos y buenos deseos desde Chile.

    PD. por si acaso voy a traducir esto con google, perdon si la traducciones es mala y termino ofendiendote.


    Thank you very much for your talent, I really like your stories, I wish I had the possibility to have more in Spanish, somo your many admirers and fans that we are unable to language.
      Thanks for the book The French say so, I liked it, especially because it is in Spanish, greetings and good wishes from Chile.

    PD. case I will translate this with google, sorry if the translation is bad and ended offending you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello! The translation is fine. :-)

      In fairness I have tried translating my work into Spanish but the sales were simply not there.

      http://amzn.to/1o67MFL

      But we'll see what happens this time.

      Delete
  23. Congratulations on the completion of fair play and i hope everything goes well and soon you start another story. The cover is very well, very nice :-)
    I'd love to read your books in Spanish, my native language. It would be wonderful. I like your stories, although I have read few because my English is pretty bad. Thanks for the gift you give us, the story "The French have a word for it" translated into Spanish. A short but nice story. Thank you very much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ross. I'm glad you're enjoying the little story. I love the idea of putting my work into many different languages. We just have to see whether the market is there.

      Delete
  24. Glad you've finished the novel and start new projects.
    The cover is beautiful.
    Thanks for giving us the short story.
    I hope to read more books in Spanish. Kisses.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I am very glad to read a story in Spanish yours. I´d love reading all!! although I read in English, it would be wonderful to have them in Spanish. Thank you very much. I´ve recently read "fair game" and It would be great to read it in Spanish. I look forward to reading "fair play" too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's very sweet. Thank you! We'll see what happens.

      Delete
  26. Hola Josh!!! Muchisimas gracias por compartir tu historia en español!!!
    Realmente amaría poder leer todos tus libros en español; lamentablemente no solemos ser tenidos en cuenta, pero te juro que compraría todos tus libros en mi idioma. Leerlos en ingles es un karma para mí por mi pobre conocimiento del idioma, pero igual te adoro!
    Te mando besos!!

    Google translate (sorry xd!)

    Hi Josh! Thank you so much for sharing your story in Spanish!
    I'd really love to read all your books in Spanish; unfortunately we are not usually taken into account, but I swear I would buy all of your books in my language. Read in English is a karma for me for my poor knowledge of the language, but just adore you!
    I send you kisses!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Luly,

      It's not so much that we wouldn't all like to take our Spanish readers into account -- it's the question as to whether the market is there. I have tried translating stories into Spanish before, but sadly the market was not there.

      http://amzn.to/1o67MFL

      Delete
  27. Buen día Josh. De todo corazón lo felicito por su magnífico trabajo. Gracias por este regalo en español, sería maravilloso poder disfrutar de sus historias en lengua española mi idioma natal. Mil bendiciones.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hola Josh, mil gracias por pensar en los que hablamos español y regalarnos una traducción y ojalá se pueda que traduzcan tus libros al español, créeme somo ávidas lectoras y adoraríamos la oportunidad de leerte en español, besos

    ReplyDelete
  29. Entrando a tu blog leí tu entrada y como describes maravillosamente los procesos de como llevar acabo lo que es la elaboración y edición de tus novelas, tu como escritor tienes magia en tu pluma y por lo que veo disfrutas lo que haces, claro que lo sufres, y de igual manera lo disfrutas, es genial lo que trasmites en tus obras y eso debe de ser un orgullo y una satisfacción para todo tu esfuerzo, gracias, infinitamente gracias!!!..

    es una verdadera delicia!!.. disfrutar de sus obras, gracias por regalarnos la posibilidad de ponerlas en nuestro idioma español,

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hello Mr. Lanyon, first I want to say that I like a lot of his writings, that you are a wonderful and so creative writer. Second I would like to thank you so splendid gift that has made us their Spanish-speaking readers, hopefully in the future we could have the pleasure of buying our language some of his long novels.
    Thank you very much again for such a wonderful gift, bye.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Aly! I appreciate your kind words.

      Delete
  31. Sr.Lanyon,muchisimas gracias por regalarnos esta historia corta en español...Somos muchisimos los que estamos enamorados de sus novelas ,asi que ojala que pronto podamos disfrutar de ellas en nuestra lengua.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hola Josh, muchas gracias por compartir tu novela "The French Have a Word for It" en español. Somos muchos los que amamos tus historias y a los que nos gustaría poder disfrutar de ellas en nuestro idioma si se animasen a traducirlas. Mucha suerte en todos tus proyectos, un abrazo.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hola Josh:
    Muchísimas gracias por traducir el libro "Los franceses lo dicen así" al español, ha sido todo un regalo, ojalá haya muchos autores como tú. ME ENCANTAN TUS LIBROS, ERES UNO DE MIS AUTORES FAVORITOS, sabes darle vida a los personajes y que penetren en nuestro corazón. Gracias y abrazos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I appreciate the kind words.

      Delete
  34. Muchas gracias por el mini-libro... Ha sido un placer leerlo. Besos

    ReplyDelete
  35. Buenos días Josh, miles de gracias por pensar en los que no hablamos ingles y traducir el corto LOS FRANCESES LO DICEN ASÍ, ojala fueran muchos los que decidieran como tu traducir sus obras, espero de corazón que no sea la última vez que puedo leer algo tuyo en mi idioma, mucha suerte en tus nuevos proyectos.

    P.D. Te lo traduzco pero al ser desde el traductor de Google no se yo si lo hará bien.

    Hello Josh, many thanks for thinking of those who do not speak English and translate the short FRENCH SAY SO, hopefully be many who decide as you translate his works, I sincerely hope that is not the last time I read something yours in my language, good luck in your new projects.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Charo. If Spanish-speaking readers will buy the stories, I will make sure to translate more of them. If the market is there, more books will be made available.

      Delete
  36. Wow! Writing is much more complicated that I've thought. But at least you have something you can call yours, you can say "This is the result of my efforts". I'm a shop assistant and I don't have that satisfaction at the en of the day. I love your book, but I'm learnign English and I need a dictionary to read them and it's very frustrating. Thanks to translate into Spanish one of your short stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Astrid, that's very sweet. Thank you.

      Yes, I think one of the great satisfactions of writing is the feeling that perhaps the work will give pleasure -- and last. That is very gratifying.

      Delete
  37. Hi Mr Lanyon, I love your stories, thanks for giving The French Have a Word for It in Spanish, I wish we had more of them in our language ... congratulations for your new book ... greetings from Chile

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marilu! You're welcome. I have tried translating stories into Spanish before now, but the market did not seem to be there. So I'll try again and we'll see if things have changed. :-)

      http://amzn.to/1o67MFL

      Delete
  38. Hola mi nombre es Paola Vidal, muchísimas gracias por su libro en español, y estoy de acuerdo en que se traduzcan porque me encantan sus libros y me gustaría poder leerlos en mi idioma ya que usted es uno de mis escritores favoritos. Sus personajes cobran vida y realmente llegan al corazón, me encanta y ojalá éste sueño que es el de todos nosotros pueda cumplirse, muchas gracias

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome. I appreciate the enthusiasm for the translation project.

      Delete
  39. Gracias por la traducción en español de "Los franceses lo dicen así", es la primera vez que escucho de tí, tengo unas ganas locas de leerlo.
    Me encanta descubrir nuevos autores aunque no domino el inglés y se agradecen las traducciones para poder conocer nuevas y excelentes historias. Muchísimas gracias.

    Thanks for the translation in Spanish of "Los franceses lo dicen así", is the first time I hear of you, I have a mad desire to read it.
    I love discovering new authors though not fluent in English and translations in order to meet new and great stories are appreciated. Thank you. (mecanic translation, sorry).
    Likar

    ReplyDelete