Monday, September 26, 2011

First Draft Fears

I am the perfect TA to kick off our series on "quieting the internal critic" because I am, as I believe I have mentioned, a serial starter.  I dig in to the first draft, I write a few chapters, and then... I give up the ghost.

The reasons for this quirk of mine are many and varied, and I have spent much time analyzing them in order to work on specific solutions.  Here's what I've got so far:

1. Plot and concept

Plotting has always been a weakness of mine.  As I start writing, I often have a specific concern in mind -- perhaps I'm trying to do too much; or too little; or the external plot is not as interesting as the internal plot.  More problematic (and often the case lately) -- by the time I get a novel from concept to page, someone else has already had the same idea.  And in a relatively high-concept project (especially when the other writer is famous and you are not), this situation is death. 

1. Find a trusted critiquer!

I have mostly implemented this solution by taking classes -- which is a very expensive way to find someone to look at my pages and give me the confidence I need that I have a decent concept that merits completion.  Better solution: Find a great and dedicated critique group! (I'm working on it.)

I have discovered that if I get helpful feedback as to the direction of my manuscript from the very outset, I am all fired up to start writing and keep going.


2. I have an ingrained tendency to read, re-read, tweak and re-tweak the beginning pages/chapters.  Either these turn out to be much more polished than later chapters; or the later chapters never get written, period. 

2. Keep going!  Don't go back!  If I have revision ideas as I go along, I learned that what I need to do is write myself a note and continue.  Part of my problem is that, due to the start-and-stop nature of my writing life, I often have to spend far too much time rereading what I've written -- to get myself back "into" the mood of novel.  This step (and wasted time) would not be necessary if I would simply...

3. Write every day!  Or at least every week!

(I'm working on it.)

4. I get stuck.  My novel has a knotty problem, or I get tired of what I'm writing, and I am tempted to give up.

4. Read!  Always Read!  Keep reading good work -- and don't let it intimidate you.  Be inspired.

Check out our latest Teaching Authors Interview/Book Giveaway for some true writing inspiration from the great Nikki Grimes.

Go forth and write fruitfully! --Jeanne Marie

1 comment:

John J. Bonk said...

Wow, Jeanne Marie,I can totally relate to a lot of what you're saying--especially the tendency to reread and retweak. In fact, I'm in the midst of working on my 4th MG novel right now and wondering whether I've got too much going on, if the plot is strong enough, if I need to go in a different direction completely. It's so hard to get immersed into the guts of it after letting time pass.