the craft

Crash Landing: A First Draft in Three Months

Guys, I gotta let loose about this one. Forgive this back-slappy, slap-happy post…

The draft is finished. hallelujah.

Twelve weeks of non-stop madness. Five-hour writing shifts, seventeen-page type-a-thons followed by hours of paralysis and anxiety. Editing on the fly, no plot outlines, no plan. Three months. 57,051 words. 290 pages. Done. Written. Wrote.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got  lots of work ahead of me. There are character arcs to modulate, themes to round out, spellings to check (lots of those). I would never, ever show anyone but my agent or my editor the smoldering, white hot thing I have before me. But you can’t fix a blank page, and though these pages need fixin, they ain’t blank, Baby.

Though this is a “first draft” in one sense, it was also a…I don’t know…twelve draft in another. I’ve been working on this y.a. project since August 2009, with the guidance, support, and aid of my patient, brilliant, and marvelous editor Deb, as well as my awesome agent. But as of last spring I knew I needed a fresh start. Things had become confused, over-cooked, muddled. My characters needed a completely blank, slightly damp chalkboard from which to tell their tale. And so, after two years of writing and editing, this September I threw out the old drafts and started rewriting the book from page one, word one.

It sucked. But it was worth it.

The resulting story is a far cry from where I started. The characters are distant relatives of the floral bits of tissue paper populating the previous drafts. To me, this new version, for all its rough edges, feels at once deeper, simpler, more complex, and truer. I was able to take what I learned in the last two years and apply it from the get go. I took the heart from the old book (blackened and raw but still beating) and built a new host body around it. New bones, new brain, new everything. What I’ve got looks like Frankenstein’s monster. But with one or two invasive procedures and a lot of cosmetic surgery, I think she’ll walk and talk again. Hell. I think she’s gonna dance.

To mix another metaphor, I feel like I’ve augered this puppy in with no landing gear and the engines on fire. In other words, I kinda feel like this guy:



And it feels good.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna sleep for a week.