As I read over the last draft to see what I have to work with, I’m amazed at how timid I am, afraid to describe fully, show these people in action. The draft is tight, tight with my fears. And now, in the polish, I have to unfurl it, make it blossom, make these worlds of long ago that I find so interesting, alluring for the readers. Come into my parlor, my spider has to say to the fly. And the fly has to go because it cannot help itself.But how to I get there from this tight, frightened draft? Strap on my high heels and start dancing. Dare to be bad so I can get to good. That’s the only wisdom I’ve learned from writing three novels. The anxiety isn’t going away. I need to write a whole draft, no matter how dreadful it is, not get stopped on reworking good scenes because I feel safe and the writing sings. I can make it better because when I’m through with a draft, I know the people and I know the plot a little more fully. But I can only learn such things through that process of the draft with all its mess, meandering paths, wrong turns, undeveloped characters.
I didn’t think Louis XIV would be the main character in this novel, and he is. That surprises me. It pleases me, too, because it’s hard to let go of history, what the biographies say, to create a character. That’s why real people who lived in the time periods I write about have always been side characters before.
But Louis was the headline of the 1600s. Why would he allow anything different now? The French court is a maze of intrigue and families. It’s been work to sort it out. But now I know the cliques, the twists of friendships. I’m on the polish, and yet I encounter places, as I did today, where I have to write new scenes. Ah, the terror of a new scene. Will it work? What do I know anyway? What makes me think I’m a writer, much less a good one?
Same old fears. Same old hip hop three novels down. You be bad. Every day, there it is. One just has to keep on typing and stay away from the scotch.
How brave of you to be so honest about your drafting stage. I teach college freshmen who believe with all their hearts that professional writers don’t have messy drafts, and certainly don’t need to revise other than a few editing strokes of the computer keys.
With your permission, I am reprinting this post for them.
Thank you for your honesty… and for your incredible novels. I have all three and eagerly await the fourth.
How courageous you are to be so honest about the messiness of first drafts. I teach college freshmen who are absolutely convinced that bestselling novelists such as yourself sit at a computer and create masterpieces that only need a few keyboard strokes to make minor edits before sending off the manuscript.
With your permission I am copying this post and distributing it to my classes.
I have all three of your books and eagerly await the final version of this one. You are a masterful storyteller. Don’t listen to those internal critics–listen to your fans! We believe you’ll stay the course until you have a novel in the same league as your others.
Hi, Karleen! Yes, that Neil Woodard, family friend from long ago.
How’d your quest for the perfect Margarita turn out? You do remember don’t you? Oh, never mind.
You may as well have named this blog “Mary Shelly” because you’ve definitely created ‘the monster’ as far as I’m concerned or maybe as far as you’re concerned; I’m unsure.
I’m slogging along with my attempt at a manuscript. I’m currently working on the timeline of events, character development and some dialog proofs to see if my point-of-view will work successfully. Having some fun now, eh gang? “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Well, that may be just a tad premature don’t you think? But with a modern financial depression coming-on a guy should have a back-up plan.
The characters are now mentally embodied and have assumed a ‘life’ of their own in my mind; dialog, locations, scenery and emotions come and go. Fleeting images of the subject matter are an affirmation that I’ve come to the correct conclusion that this can be done. It’s somewhat maddening at times. It’s maddening because I can’t always type fast enough to capture them as adequately as I had anticipated. I’ve also discovered that finding quality time to write while holding a steady job is an encumbrance as well. But, my characters shan’t be denied their voice and their personal life’s lesson.
See, your agent and publisher where right all along. You needed this; right…
I’ll be ‘checking-in’ from time-to-time for spiritual support. Now perhaps you may better understand my earlier comment concerning ‘the monster’? (Cue eerie music)
We are our own worst enemy – aren’t we? All the answers to our questions are inside each of us – the trick is “getting to” the answers!
This website I hope will serve as a “loving mrror” – providing you encouragement and support. Karleen – You are a fabulous writer.
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