Photo credit: Anita S on Pixabay

Today, I read Draft #2. I can sum it up in one word:


There is so much wrong with this draft that I have no idea where to start fixing it. Isolated scenes are fine (some of them, anyway), but they don’t fit together because I was writing them as the spirit moved instead of trying to compose a coherent tale. It’s discovery writing at its worst: you end up with a pile of scenes that don’t fit, and then you have to figure out what to do with them.

I’m trying very hard not to panic. I’d spent so much time tweaking various scenes that I really did think they all went together, except for maybe one or two spots that needed a transition. In my head, the story flowed, but on the page—not so much. As a result, nearly all I have are those discrete scenes. The dramatic arc is essentially absent. While there were a couple of scenes that moved me when I reread them, they were islands in a sea of crap.

I can’t remember anymore how I put the first book together. I know I did, because I’ve reread it, and it works. This one doesn’t, though. Even after I pulled out a ton of garbage that didn’t belong, I’m still left with a slew of stuff that may or may not belong, plus a bunch of gaps in between the stuff that does.

In any case, so much for my hope of finishing Draft #3 by March 25. There’s no way I can make this pile of garbage into a coherent manuscript in three weeks. Even if I didn’t have other obligations and commitments, from earning a living to caring for my elderly mother to rehearsing for the Brahms Requiem, it’s too big a job for a book that needs so much work. For example, the first third of the book takes up fully half of the manuscript, while the second third is tiny and the third third has two different scenarios as the climax.

I suppose all writers reach a point where they’re convinced their book is shit and they should forget about writing. I’d like to think that’s all that’s going on, and that tomorrow I’ll look at it and say, “It’s not that bad.” But I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen.  

To be clear: this post is not a bid for everybody to say, “There, there, it’ll be okay, I’m sure it’s not as terrible as you say.” Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate support and encouragement. The thing is, I’ve been writing long enough to know what a bad book looks like. Trust me: at this moment, this is a bad book.

Part of what scares me about this is that this isn’t the first draft. Anne Lamott famously talked about shitty first drafts. By the second draft, the book shouldn’t suck any more, even if it still needs a lot of work. This book reads more like a shitty first draft than a second draft that just needs more work. To paraphrase Anne Lamott, this is the kind of book that makes me afraid I’ll get hit by a bus and when the survivors are going through my papers, they’ll find it and read it and think, “No wonder she stepped in front of a bus!”

A part of me is terrified even to put this post up for fear that if I ever do finish the book and publish it, you’ll come to it asking, “Is this book really as terrible as she said it would be?” and poking through the pages to see what stinks instead of just reading it the way you would any other book. The thing is, I guarantee that if you’re looking for the rotten part of any book, you’ll find it. All books have flaws. If you look for them, you will find them.

So here’s my promise: if I can’t fix this book and make it a truly good book, I won’t publish it. If it’s not something I’m unequivocally proud of, you will never see it. Which at least means you don’t have to worry about looking for the parts that suck, because they will never see the light of day.

Tonight, that’s the best I can do.

7 thoughts on “Rotten

  1. A few years ago, I wrote a fanfic that got off track and I had to delete 10,000 words. I didn’t take that section and put it in a “maybe-I’ll-use-this-someday folder,” I hit delete and never had to look at it again. It was the best thing for that particular story. Hopefully, Santa will find its way without having to face the bus. I wish you luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Next Day | P. Jo Anne Burgh

  3. It’s not ready yet. You’re not ready yet. Or, you are way ahead. I think this book is just a reflection of what life is sometimes. We get bits and pieces and we don’t know how they all work together. But I’m thoroughly sure that it will all work when the missing pieces show up. I can only offer one point on panic, since I seem to do a bit of it myself, and that is to just look at one part for awhile. Let that one point fill all your senses. Read it. Type it. Say it out loud. It’s something you can do while you’re waiting for the missing parts to show up. And thank you for sharing your frustration as it helps us work through our similar feelings. Blessings

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Diane. I hadn’t thought about focusing on just one part as a way of addressing it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever tried that approach. Sounds interesting. I appreciate your insights.


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