I went to my monthly meeting of the Central Florida Romance Writers. A lovely author who writes as Blair Bancroft gave a workshop on The Wise Author’s Approach to Writing a Book. I gleaned several nuggets of wisdom from the talk, but one thing that really stood out to me is that I still have a lot of work to do on this journey to becoming a successful author.
When the presenter was taking questions, I asked her to repeat what she had said about plots having a flow to them. Well, what I actually said was more like: “You mentioned earlier the different points that an author should hit, like the black moment and so forth. Can you list them again so I can write them down?”
The presenter reiterated how she is not a fan of hard and fast rules for structuring a novel, that we have to do what works for us. The discussion was picked up and the chapter president mentioned Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She mentioned we have to be prepared to write really crappy first drafts.
I know this. I’ve know this a long time. I’ve had my well noted copy of Bird by Bird for about ten years. I saw Anne Lamott on BookTV discussing writing and immediately went out to purchase her much lauded book on the subject of writing. I devoured the pages of this book in much the same way I had The Art of Fiction. But there’s just something…unsettling about writing a crappy first draft to me.
I’m still struggling with first draft perfectionist syndrome. I want to get it just right before it gets to the page, and it slows me down considerably. I was able to put the perfectionism aside and write Delivering Justice. I tweaked and reworked and polished it to a streak free shine before sending it out into the world–twice. It was roundly rejected both times. The perfectionist in me wants to say that I tried the fast and crappy first draft way and it didn’t work, so I should go back to the way I like to do things, but that way hasn’t worked well for me, either. Nothing ever gets finished. Sigh.
Lately I’ve been focusing on entering a few contests for some feedback on my work. I hate working in a vacuum and feeling like I am groping in the dark, trying to get a hand on something solid. I want to know if I’m moving in the right direction. I have about eight months left before my 30th birthday and my deadline to secure a publishing contract/self-publish a book. I’m wondering if I have it in me to even get close to that now. It seemed perfectly doable when I set the goal. Now I am not so sure. Perhaps I need to expand to other publishers or getting an agent. I’m in deep thought about this.
What tips do you have for getting over my crappy first draft phobia?