Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Work in Progress

One of my favorite books in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. A writer friend introduced the book to me, and I have had the pleasure of introducing my students to the book.

The best part of the book is in the early chapters when Lamott discusses my favorite formal writing term.

Shitty first drafts.

Lamott argues that writers need to let their fears go and just write. Stop "reigning yourself in" and put everything down on paper. Get it out of your system and onto the page.

To date, I have three crappy first drafts.

I am rotating between all three, excavating the good parts from the drafts. I stopped looking at the notecards I had extensively and loving padded with scene details. I re-started writing with the general idea, my character sketches, and my imagination. And so far, it's working. I've written 10 pages (longhand because I am a dinosaur). 10 pages of a crappy first draft.

But it's 10 pages of something. Through the editing process, I expect a diamond to emerge from the rough.

What I have learned with my works in process is that I need and must write those bad, ugly first drafts. The first drafts are Cinderella pre-Fairy Godmother intervention; they are hideous, unpleasant, and terrible. But the first drafts have hope. The second and third drafts can only become coherent, brilliant, glorious, vivid, and dazzling works through editing and proofreading the craptacular words on the screen or papers.


  1. Fear can diminish after giving it voice. I think that is why I joined this group.
    I am in the same stage as you, Tiana--two first drafts that need reworking. I know much more craft now, so they will be better.
    Yours will, too.

  2. This made me laugh - shitty first drafts. Yes, so true. I try hard to get it right first time, but fail miserably. But Lamott is right, get it on to the page, even though you know it's dire. Time later to go back and shape, hone and trim it until you're satisfied. Though maybe, if you're like me, you're never truly satisfied. I could revise and edit (and re-edit) forever and a day, but there has to come a point where you say 'That's it - leave it."