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Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing and human-turtle hybrid babies... oh yeah, there's a connection!

I remember finishing my very first manuscript and practically collapsing on the couch after making that final keystroke. It was as if I’d just run a marathon. The manuscript took me about six months to write, and came in at a daunting 90K words. Sadly, it was a pile of garbage that pains me to think about. Of course, I didn’t realize how garbage-like it was at the time. I thought it was a masterpiece.

I was like a mother who’d just given birth. You know what I mean? Mothers always think their newborn babies are gorgeous, but if you ask the fathers – those brave enough to answer honestly – they’ll tell you that, while witnessing a birth is an amazing experience, a newborn baby tends to look a bit more like some kind of human-turtle-bald-monkey hybrid. “Cute,” I’m afraid, is not the first word that sprang to mind when I saw my little guy for the very first time. “Perfect,” sure, even “Wonderful.” But “cute?” No sir! 

-REDACTED FOR REASONS OF SELF PRESERVATION … I just learned my wife reads this blog.-

In any case, that first manuscript is now, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, forever locked in a trunk marked “SHAME” (along with a few other manuscripts). 

But last week, when I finished my latest manuscript, I realized that that exhaustion, which I really have felt with almost every other manuscript I’ve written, wasn’t there.  In fact, I’m a few thousand words into my newest work-in-progress (WIP), and feel confident that I'll finish it by summer.

I’ve decided writing is a muscle. I’ve heard the analogy before, but it never really made sense until recently. It's strengthened with each manuscript. Your endurance increases. Even staring down the first page of a new WIP is easier each time. This last time I just ploughed right into it. Finished the last sentence of one book, and started the first sentence of the next.

I have one more rewrite to do on the book I just completed. I took the plot a different route during the last rewrite and while I’m happy with the story, and the pacing, it’s sufficiently different that I only consider it a rough first draft. I’m taking a few days away from it (and starting in on something new) before I dive in to that rewrite, but I think it’s going to be a pretty quick one.

What about you guys? Have you guys found that each manuscript you write is easier than the one before? Are you less exhausted when you're finished? Or do you have that same struggle each time? Maybe you've found the opposite to be true, and it's actually harder than before because now you know how much effort goes into writing.


Steve MC said...

They say that once you've completed one, you can at least reassure yourself that you've made it through before.

Kind of like pregnancy, I bet. Speaking of which, your redaction reminded me of a line in a "Bert & I" record, when a guy says, "I could whittle you a better-looking baby than what I got." : p

Julie Luek said...

My first (and only, to date) attempt at a novel left me with a fairly horrid manuscript. It's tucked away never to be seen again. But the process was not a failure-- I learned so much about writing and who I am as a writer. No regrets-- just a little cringing when I think about it. ;)

JeffO said...

I won't say I'm less exhausted, but I know the second one was much better after the first draft than the first one.

Steven W said...

@Steve - I'll have to remember that "whittle" comment next time one of my siblings have a baby :P. I think there is some confidence in knowing you've written a manuscript before. I believe that.

@Julie - I used to think the only reason I kept my trunk-novels was to remind myself that I've at least gotten a bit better. But I think it's possible that past ideas are good, and just not well executed. Perhaps you'll find your first manuscript just needed time. That hasn't happened to me, mind you. Mine were flawed from word one. No redemption for them. Cesar has spoken!

@JeffO - I think this was the first one I didn't have that exhausted feeling, and if I'm counting my trunk novels this last manuscript is number 10. Ten... I think I need to go weep somewhere.

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