Not exactly rockin’ it out on a Saturday night, but that’s fine. It’s raining, it’s getting colder. I just put down another thousand-plus words on the sequel to The Daedalus Incident that, admittedly, weren’t great words. However, I’m OK with that because, in writing those words, I hit on some ideas and themes that just snapped into place brilliantly.
As you likely discerned from the title, first drafts are indeed allowed to suck. That’s because the book, as a total entity, doesn’t exist yet. There’s no real basis for comparison, because that particular story hasn’t been written until the first draft is done. How do you measure the worth of something before it’s even finished?
That’s why I’m a huge proponent of writing an entire first draft outright, resisting the temptation to go back and revise as you go. As I write this first draft, I’m breaking all kinds of rules I set for myself, stuff I learned the hard way through writing TDI. Stuff that I should never, ever do. But in writing through that really bad scene — full of people basically sitting around talking and glaring at each other — I found where my characters’ motivations were. I uncovered how they really felt since the end of TDI. I struck upon some broad themes that I can now tease out of other parts of the book once I’m done.
The scene itself? It’ll either be radically altered or cut outright. I got two guys in there sitting around doing nothing. I got a scene set up so trite that even my characters noticed. (“Seriously, what’s up with the mastermind thing? Did we reach the boss level in the hologame?” one asked another.)
Yes, I’m willing to embarass myself as a writer by putting that craptastic quote out there because, frankly, it’ll get better. Really. That’s the whole point. Once the whole book is done, and I’ve uncovered all the little nuances and big ideas that didn’t show up in my Excel plottings, I can go back to that scene, pick up what actually worked, and discard the rest in favor of a better scene that carries far more weight.
The first draft is supposed to suck. But even as you wince through horrible dialogue, implausible scenes and stunted character arcs, you’re also coming up with the good stuff that’ll stick.
And finally, a note about The Daedalus Incident, for those interested. Honestly, there’s not much new to report at the moment; call it the calm before the storm. The good people at Night Shade are putting their finishing touches on edits to the book, and I’ve started to come up with ideas for blogging, signings, marketing and travel for 2013 in support of the launch. I’ve already got one or two things in place, and a few definite plans, but there will be more to come. Stay tuned!