Tag Archives: first draft

Permission to Fail: Granted

FailStar

This is a red F, in crayon, that I have awarded a gold star. Yay, failure.

A draft of my second book is due in a few days, but it’s not finished.  The reason it’s not finished is that I don’t want to write the end, and the reasons I don’t want to write the end are these:

1. I want to write a satisfying ending, but there can only be a truly satisfying ending when the structure of the plot is sound enough to usher the story to an equally sound conclusion.

1b. Therefore, if I write the ending and it isn’t fully satisfying, I’ll have proof that the plot isn’t fully cooked;

1c. Which means I’ll have to do rewrites.

2. If I write the ending, the draft will be finished.

2b. As soon as the draft is finished, it’s due to my editor.

2c. My editor really likes my first book.  What if I give her the second one, and she thinks it’s a total letdown?  What if, as an author – which is something I’ve worked very hard for a chance to be – I turn out to be a one-book wonder?

There’s only one thing on that list – #1 – that’s actually based in a desire to write well.

All the other reasons are based in fear.  Specifically, the fear of failure.

I’m not unique.  We all fear failure.  And we know that we have to push through that fear if we’re ever going to achieve our goals.  But the human brain has an amazing talent for knowing something and ignoring it at the very same time.  For example, take 1c, above.  I am certain that there will be rewrites.  I have come to expect many rounds of rewrites.  Why am I pretending that I can somehow escape what is inevitable (and important)?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I have to write an ending.  Like, right now.

Today, I gave myself permission to write pure crap.  And by “gave myself permission” what I really mean is that I forced myself to write words even while knowing that they are not my best. I let every hackneyed phrase stay put, I let the gushy mushies take over, I overused adverbs and got spicy with the dialogue tags, I exercised no restraint, and I told rather than showed (gasp and horror, yeah, yeah).  I reminded myself that my editor is a professional who has seen first drafts before and will not damn me for mine.

(I also reminded myself that I still have a couple of days, so if I finish now, I’ll have a tiny window of time to do a little tweaking before I send it in.)

The result of giving myself this permission is that I’m finally closing in on the end of this draft, which is exactly what I need to be doing right now.  What I’m generating does not thrill me yet, but that’s okay. It doesn’t feel okay, but it actually is okay.  It’s even necessary.  If I want to write something good, then I have to write something.

While I’m on a roll, I think I’ll also give myself permission to fail in writing a decent conclusion to this post, because you know what?  I really want to get back to writing my crappy ending.

 

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out summer 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at makingtyme.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Deadlines, Writing

That’s Cool

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

— Ernest Hemingway

You know it, and I know it, but not everybody you come across knows how wonderfully magical a thing it is to write a book. To create characters that are as real as members of your own family. To dream up events that keep readers awake late into the night promising themselves, “Just one more chapter.” To speak truths into the minds and hearts of others that you will never meet.

Not everyone knows what it is like to work for hours, agonizing over the subtleties of word choice. (Is it a secret meeting? A clandestine meeting? Does a stealthy meeting make sense?) How do you describe what it feels like to walk into a new school when you’re in third grade? Does this dialogue sound authentic? And then what happens?

There are actually people who believe that writing a book, especially a children’s book, is easy to do. And THEY WALK AMONG US!!

As a children’s book writer, I have had more people than I’d care to remember say things like, “You write for children? How cute!” “I’ve always wanted to write a picture book!” and “Oh, I should write a children’s book, too!”

            I’m normally a picture book writer, but several years ago I decided to try my hand at a middle grade novel. (Okay, I was dared to write a middle grade novel.) I worked for two years on it, on and off. Finally, I got tired of the “and off” method and decided to give myself a writer’s retreat. I blocked off a week in August to go to our family’s cabin and finally, finally finish the first draft.

            I took the dog, left my husband and daughter at home, and retreated. I worked solidly for a week, knowing that they would be coming to join me on the weekend.

            I finished on Friday afternoon. In fact, I was typing, “The end” as they came up the driveway. My husband, Rollo, opened the door, calling, “How’d it go?”

            “I’M FINISHED WITH THE FIRST DRAFT!” I told him.

            He made the proper amount of commotion about this announcement. (Definition or Proper Amount of Commotion: Not so little I had to wonder if he was impressed. Not so much that he made me think he was astonished I could actually finish a novel.) “Tomorrow I’m taking you out to dinner. We’ll go to Visconti’s. We’ll order a really good bottle of champagne. We’ll splurge and order dessert!”

            The next evening we drove into town. We had champagne with our appetizers. We had a really good bottle of red wine with dinner.

            “Looks like you’re celebrating something special,” our perky young waitress said as she brought out dessert.

            “My wife just finished her book,” Rollo said.

            I tried to look suitably humble.

            “Oh, that’s cool,” the waitress said. She set our desserts down in front of us and turned to me. “What did you read?”

            The humble look fell from my face, ninja-kicked off, I am sure, by an expression of outrage. Did I look like someone who needed a celebratory dinner for reading a whole book by myself??

            “No,” Rollo told her, enunciating clearly. “She wrote a book.”

            “Oh,” the waitress said, refilling our water glasses. “That’s cool, too.”

            They walk among us…

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anti-Advice, Celebrations, craft~writing, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Satisfaction, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing and Life