Image courtesy of Flicker.
Just in time for the holidays…
I am at my childhood home as I write this. Each time I come back here, a flood of thoughts comes to mind. Like the fact that I am Catholic (albeit fallen and can’t get up) and my mother (converted) would tell us every Christmas that Baby Jesus fell from the sky, right into his little manger. Just like magic! It was a much cleaner drop than, say… from a stork, and he managed to land in a perfect, Godlike manner.
It’s a ridiculous story told by a recent immigrant and convert, but I believed her interpretation of the Birth of Our Lord – for a long, long time. I was naive and it took an awful lot for me to wise up. Looking back, I realize that her little white lie covered up the fact that she really didn’t want to go into the reproductive systems of Mary and Joseph. What better way to give birth than to just drop from the heavens? (I know I would have liked it more than the real thing.)
This caused me to think, especially now that NaNoWriMo is over. (I have my 50K or so words, but this means nothing.)
Just because you have a draft doesn’t mean it’s all over. Your 50K or so words are not perfect. Your writing will not fall from the sky, hitting its target without a bruise. It takes a great deal of thought, a lot of work and persistence, and the willingness to adjust before a book is ready for anything besides a dark corner of your basement closet.
Case in point: My first novel. It took two years of NaNoWriMo and then some to write the first (awful) draft. The only words that made sense in that version was “The End.” Going through the 175K words that first time made me want to heave. So I put it away (in disgust) for a year.
Eventually, I decided the story was good but the execution was terrible. Then came three years of editing, with various editors. Again, again, and again. I learned the first draft was woody and stiff, my characters more like caricatures, and I wobbled between genres. Once I beefed up the characters, chose a genre, eliminated 50K unnecessary words – starting the story on Page 72 helped – the job was not yet complete.
No. The more I thought about the story, the more I wove in themes. Musical themes, social themes. Everyone had a secret. I broke the book into three distinct parts to coordinate with a piano concerto. The first, the stage set with heartbreak; the second, healing begins; the third, overcoming adversity and starting anew. It took a long time to edit, much blood, sweat, and tears, but I’m pleased with the end result.
With my current NaNo effort (which stared out as a “Christian” novel, but will end up more YA with a sweet story), I can already see where I’ll have to work on my characters. I have a story line set up, complete with plenty of conflict and a resolution, but have decided that my novel would be more interesting if everyone had a secret.
This rambling post is to remind you that your first effort, while probably good, is not your best. If you’re an honest writer, you know that your writing does not just fall from out of the blue. It takes hard work to produce your best. It takes trial and error, but eventually, you will have that perfect baby.