Friday, July 27, 2012

First Draft Epiphanies & Fears

I finished the first draft of my novel on Monday. At least I think it was Monday. The days tend to run together for me, especially after a holiday visiting friends up north. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that I'm done with the first draft! I'm finished! Time to pop a cork and celebrate with cake and high-fives!

...Except not. Because the first draft is just that: the first draft. I mean, okay. I knew that, and I knew what I'd written needed a lot of beefing up, a lot of editing, a lot of reworking and rewriting and dramatizing. But I think I secretly imagined that as soon as I finished the first draft of my first ever novel, the skies would open and a chorus of angels would emerge from above and serenade me with trumpets, and Barack Obama would roll up in a carriage with a bottle of champagne and tell me I'd done America good. It's always disappointing when you expect fanfare and don't get any, even if your expectations were subconscious and delusional.

In reality, I met with my supervisor and he said, "Good first draft! Really. Now go home and make it better." Then I ate a cheese roll from Tesco, sat in the shade for a while, and took the tube home to Walthamstow. 

I guess I didn't realize how overwhelming it would feel when I'd finished the first draft, but was still faced with all of this work I had yet to do. And it's not just a bunch of useless busy work, like searching for grammar and continuity errors. It's adding flesh to the bones of a story. It's dislocating the limbs so I can reset them again, so they'll work properly this time. It's building a story from beginning to end, one that makes the reader feel something, one that happens from the start, one that creates drama and conflict and romance and excitement. It scares me.

I'm scared because I'm worried I don't have the skills to inject my story with these things. What if I do it wrong? What if I don't know how? I worry that it'll never be up to my standards. These are silly things to worry. I've never done this before; why should I know how to do it from the start? I have to figure it out as I go, just as I did with writing the first draft. And I'm sure it will be fine. In fact I know it will. But it's so scary!

I'm scared of going back in and upsetting things, for fear I'll make them even worse. I'm scared of changing the characters beyond recognition until it's a completely different story. I know it won't happen -- these are my characters, this is my story, and everything I do to it will be my choice. I only want to make it better. 

But what if I do it wrong?

Writing is hard. Everyone keeps telling me the hardest part is over, but I can't believe that's true. How could it be? Editing and rewriting 86,000+ words sounds pretty damn difficult to me. It doesn't sound like much of a walk in the park. But, I guess, neither was writing those 86,000+ words to begin with.

I think I'd better just accept that this whole process, from start to finish, is going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done, and will feel like being punched repeatedly in the gut most of the time. But it has been, and it will continue to be, one of the most enjoyable and utterly rewarding things I have ever done. If not the most rewarding thing I've ever done, in my whole life.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hey, people who give other people shit for reading shit: STOP

Since when do we have the right to state a preference for what people read and what they don't read? People who mock others for reading books like Twilight, making the broad assumption that whoever reads it must be too stupid or confused to make a better choice about what they read, can shove it up their ass. Seriously. 

I'm an intelligent person who enjoys "classic literature" or whatever bullshit I'm supposed to read, I'm getting my goddamn masters degree in fucking WRITING for godsake, but I actually enjoyed reading the Twilight books. Oh shit, fuck, what does it mean??? SMART PEOPLE CAN READ STUPID BOOKS? Yes, they can. And so can non-smart people! And every person ever. Because they are allowed to make that choice. 

And, weirdly enough, they're allowed to read whatever trashy books they want, in addition to TwilightWhen I see a woman reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I don't think, "Oh I wish she would read something better than that." Fuck, no. I think, "Oh I bet one of her friends recommended that, or she heard the buzz and thought she'd see what it was all about. I wonder if she likes it?" I've seen professional women reading it, teenage girls, women my age, everyone. Just because it seems cool to hate on something due to its popularity doesn't make it so. 

Yeah, from the snippets I've read online, the writing in Fifty Shades is terrible. It is horrible. It is so bad. But so what? Intelligent people are not REQUIRED by some law to read ONLY books that are well-written and high quality. Nor are people of average or low intelligence! Surprise! 

I mean what's the standard here? Are we only allowed to read classic literature like A Tale of Two Cities and Lady Chatterley's Lover? Oh, wait. Shit. Dickens wrote popular literature and Lady Chatterley was considered porn at the time. So... maybe we should only read books that express a high standard of style? Like prose poems? Yeah, let's just read artsy books that don't tell a story but are just written really well from now on. No more stories, no more enjoying yourself, just quality writing OKAY? Otherwise PEOPLE WILL JUDGE YOU.

Give me a goddamn break. 

Yeah, it really annoys me when people claim, in all seriousness, "Stephanie Meyer is suuuuch a good writerrrr!" And it probably annoys me extra because I'm a writer and it's frustrating to see someone with such a poor grasp of the language becoming so successful as a writer. So yeah, that annoys me. But I don't assume that just because someone is reading a badly-written book that "OMG THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND BOOKS AND LITERATURE, I WISH I COULD SHOW THEM A REAL QUALITY BOOK INSTEAD OF THAT TRIPE." Who the fuck are you to assume what this person has or has not read? My goddamn dad has read the Twilight books. He liked Bella. He also reads a fuckton of nonfiction, philosophy, news sites, blogs, and other fictional works. He's written a series of essays on philosophy and the evolution of consciousness, and published them in his own book. So... are you gonna tell him that you're glad he's reading, but wish he'd just read something else, something better? No, because you now know that he does read other things, "better" things, and you'd sound like a condescending dick if you said that to him. So why is some stranger on the tube any better? Why is someone on the internet more worthy of your patronizing shit than someone who you know is well-read?

OH AND ALSO, guess what, even if somebody loves Stephanie Meyer and thinks she's the best writer in the land and wants her to write a million more Twilight books, you are STILL a dick if you belittle them for reading trash. Yeah you can be annoyed; it is annoying, I'll admit, when people genuinely don't realize how horrible some things are (e.g. Justin Bieber, Jeffrey Campbell Litas, Comic Sans). But that doesn't mean it's cool for you to make fun of them, feel sorry for them, or be condescending all over them for reading what they want to read. OKAY?

I mean for fuck's sake. I'm gonna read Fifty Shades of Grey as soon as I get a chance. I may not finish it due to the shitty writing, but I'm super curious about it, and I want to see what all the fuss is about, and shit, it's not like my life is ruined and I'm sullied forever and I can never wear white at my wedding because I've read glorified AU Twilight fanfic.

So SERIOUSLY people. Be elitist assholes in private all you want, but just shut up and let people read whatever they want. You don't know the whole story, and more often than not you'll make yourself look like a prick. So stop. Thank you.