The Process,  Writerly Insides,  Writing

First Drafts Frustrations

First Draft Frustrations

I have a love hate relationship with writing first drafts of anything. I have written about it before over here and it’s a topic that I will never get tired of talking about because every first draft is so different from the last.

I’ve had first drafts where I struggled to connect with the female character and found the male character easier to write, which for me, is completely left of field and hard to comprehend. I got past that and rounded out that character. I even came back to it and fell in love more, but there are some stories that drive me up the wall. During April I tackled another go at a story that I had about 50,000 words in and it was making my life a living hell because all I can think about doing is everything but writing!

I switched up scenes, I found new music (Black Veil Brides are some great muse music), tried old music, gone to the gym, worked, ate, made chai, got sick, hugged my cat, driven to my magic house in the country (it’s not MY house, but I do dub that family like my second family) and still I struggled. I’m struggled so much that I procrastinated from writing.

I watched movies, I edited, I’m working on updates for my site. I found my timeline for my entire world and got the sudden urge to update it (I’m resisted that feeling so hard though) I’m doing everything but.  I even started writing a post about not writing that I’m at my wits end.

And the hardest part about this? I’m freaking fell in love with Andy Biersack from BVB and used his interviews and bands music as a procrastination tool but the hardest pill to swallow was that as I was watching every interview with a man who’s vernacular is spectacular and who is well composed in almost every interview I get the feeling like I need to keep going with what I’m doing because he is so driven and so talented. I keep having to remind myself that there is something here that I’m missing. There was  something that this narrator is trying to tell me and I can’t quite find what it is. Not yet.

And I had this issue with him when I started this project four years ago. I did it as my first NaNoWriMo when I moved to Melbourne. I had everything plotted out and ready for him. It all made sense and then I struggled to get through to 50k with him. Travis is my werewolf, he’s a jerk and I pretty much have spent most of my time writing him and hating him.

He isn’t a likeable character and this is where I’m struggling. Readers, no matter what they say, don’t want to have a unlikeable character and I wasn’t sure if he was that, but I’ve had multiple people say that they hate him and there was one person who liked him and to get him to be unlikeable it was really a no brainer that this person like him, because it meant that I’d hit the right mark, which actually made me feel a little better about him, but it didn’t make it easier to write him.

I also felt that it was time to add another voice to the story and I tried that, she didn’t really help either. I’m now thinking that Travis is just making it hard for me on purpose, because I’m about to write about something that’s possibly hard for me or harder for him to put into words (and if we’re being honest right now, it’s probably the latter, he’s not much of a talker).

As a writer we have to remember that we’re a conduit for what’s to come, we don’t actually make the rules, because if we did then our writing would be stale and unbelievable because we’re forcing the writing.

You never want to force your writing.

Maybe it’s time to just let the story go, or maybe start from scratch. What’s scrapping close to 67,000 words? I could write them back up again couldn’t I?

Part of me wants to do that, but I know that once I do my ego will take a major blow, because I’ve never not finished something, I’ve even gone back and finished stories, no matter how long they’ve taken me.

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I started this blog post when I was in the throes of just about throwing my hands up and giving up with my story I was writing. I had a block that I couldn’t fight through and everything I tried as a coach just wasn’t working, which could be the most frustrating thing in the whole world, because I smash through blocks, I find other avenues and everything I tried, every trick and tool I have in my tool kit didn’t work and that frustrated the ever living hell out of me.

How could I let the voice of a werewolf who was better off than me take over my entire life and give me such a hard time? It’s because I had something to learn from him, which is ridiculous. What could I learn from a know it all, jerkish, father hating werewolf?

And at the end of the month, as it came closer and I was trying to rush to the finish, I found myself staring at it. I need to dive back into the feelings I had when my dad passed away. I need to process that and try and remember just how much I loved him and even remember the times I used to think he was a completely jerk because he wouldn’t let me do thing my way. I also dived right back into grieving. I miss my dad, every day, and it’s so hard to fathom that he’s still gone, that he’s not coming back and as it was April, his two year death anniversary came up and I was home for it, which adds another layer to this book.

Once I accepted that I had to write a tough scene for one of my loved characters from another story, I realised just how much the werewolf in the book had grown and how much I had grown as a writer, daughter, sister and woman. He wasn’t the jerk I made him out to be and a lot of the story I had written was back story, it had to be aged because he wasn’t initially as young as I thought he was in the beginning and not only did it make him a better a werewolf, partner, friend and son but it also made him easier to write.

Writing a first draft isn’t about getting it all right the first time, it’s about writing and exploring what the story is and who it can be about. It’s about making mistakes and getting it wrong and then discovering exactly what you want later. First drafts are fucking messy, they dive into shit we’re not ready to deal with but we need to. I know that with all of the writing I had done and all of the blocks I’ve come up against I’ve found that I need to step into what’s really going on in your life.

So if you come up against something that’s blocking you, your best bet is to sit with it. Find out what’s going on in your life because whatever it is will translate into your story. It’ll show up in a scene that’s hard to write but will test you and break you.

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First Draft Checklist:

  • Have your characters nutted out: If nothing else this means that you go into it with your headlights switched to high. A story is a dark path that needs to be explored and when you shine your headlights (or your torch) in it’s direction you’ll see the beautiful landscapes of what’s to come.
  • Have a general sense of the setting: Your setting needs to be basic, but have enough detail that you don’t get stuck half way through. Ask yourself these questions: Where is it? What’s the weather like? Where are the main locations set up (and are they houses, clubs, diners, shops etc)?
  • Don’t get too caught up in the details: I am notoriously known for putting a random {insert name here} all squished together (gotta keep the word count accurate guys!) for names I don’t remember and don’t have the time to look at. Same goes for names of places, just reference it, put a highlighted note and keep going. It’ll stop you from getting anywhere.
  • Trust, trust, trust: Trust in your writing, believe in yourself, you have this and you are in control, don’t let anyone say otherwise.
  • Have fun: A first draft is supposed to be fun, don’t put an expectation on yourself, it’ll be easier.
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Mandi is a writer, reader, dreamer and is breaking procrastinating inner editors, one at a time.

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