Remember in the Looney Tunes how Wile E. Coyote would go chasing the Roadrunner all over creation? Of course you do. Who doesn’t? (If you don’t, please feel free to exit the ride.) And then the Roadrunner would take a turn really quickly or leap a great chasm and the Coyote would miss it and just keep running straight off the end of the cliff, but as long as he didn’t look down — as long as he wasn’t aware of his mortal peril — he was okay. I think I can identify with the poor guy.
The first draft is done. It’s over. Finished. Put a fork in it. Aaand I pretty much hate it. Like, I’m fairly certain it’s among the worst things ever written, and I’ve read Twilight. For all the reviewing I do at the start of every writing session, for all the time I spend thinking about the damn thing, I feel as if I’ve had a bit of Luke Skywalker tunnel-vision (stay on target) on it for the last month or so, and I’ve been so focused on catching the Roadrunner I hadn’t noticed that I’d gone over the edge of the cliff. But now the chase is over — Roadrunner escaped, naturally, otherwise I’d be looking at a perfect draft — and it feels like there’s nothing left for me to do but look down so that I can get on with the business of falling to my death.
Is this how it’s supposed to feel??
Four months have gone into this project. Four months of writing over 900 words a day, five days a week, and I NEVER MISSED A DAY outside of the week I took off when my daughter was born. The commitment, back when I first made it, was a ludicrous one; the fact that I followed through leads me to believe that I’m actually living in a parallel universe right now, like somehow I skewed off from a reality wherein I should have crashed and burned and wound up in this altered state where I diverged and finished the mission. It shouldn’t have happened so cleanly, so efficiently, so very on schedule. That’s not how I operate. IT’S ALL WRONG. And yet I have it. Backed up in three different locations, saved in three different formats, it’s now for all intents and purposes done. I expected to hear choirs of mothertrucking angels on LSD, I expected an euphoric lightheadedness, I expected to literally step onto a beam of sunshine and sail off into the ether when I finished this thing. Instead, I feel like I’m about to step in front of a firing squad.
Don’t get me wrong. The sense of accomplishment is there. It’s impossible, I think, to write ninety thousand words and not feel a sense of “well, I definitely did that” about it. And I do feel good about the story I’ve written… in general. I’m pleased with the way the conflicts unfolded, with the way (most of) the characters developed, with (a fair chunk of) the prose. But there are holes. Good god almighty, are there holes. Let me count the ways.
I’m pretty sure any semblance of a voice that I had in writing the thing dissolved after the first act. I wrote the beginning of the thing with great swagger and confidence, having a grand old time and chuckling to myself at how clever my bits of prose were. Everything after that was crawling over broken glass through a minefield. No room for eloquence. No time for embellishment. Just raw, ugly, get-the-work-done-and-stay-the-fargo-down boring writing. I feel like after the first twenty thousand words or so, the thing reads like an instruction manual. In German. If you’ve been reading for a while, you might remember that I used to post my favorite passage that I’d written in the day. I’ve not posted a favorite passage in over a month. THAT AIN’T COINCIDENCE, COWBOY.
The ending sucks. It’s really terrible. I mean, I guess I like what happens but the way I told it, the way I framed it, the way I presented it feels all wrong. It’s like a Picasso painting, all funny angles and misshapen bits and awkward forced perspective, except I didn’t do it on purpose to make you think, it just came out that way because I’m awful and OH GOD WHY DID I THINK I COULD DO THIS.
Loose ends. The thing has so many unresolved bits, so many loose ends and characters and plotlines left flapping in the wind that it’s like trying to count the untied shoelaces in a kindergarten class. And don’t get me started on Velcro, god knows if I could’ve used Velcro on my story it wouldn’t have turned into the Gordian Knot of snarled action that i is. The thought of tying up those loose ends makes my fingers hurt.
Just thinking about it is enough to make me want to curl up with a bottle of whiskey and drink until the whole thing goes away. Maybe the best thing that could happen is that I black out and destroy my backups and we forget this whole thing ever happened. That could work, right? I honestly hate the draft so much right now. I hate it for being so bad. I hate the time I spent on it for being wasted in producing such a monolithic pile of dogsharknado. And mostly I hate myself for actually thinking this was a thing I might be good at, because I can look at virtually any part of the draft and realize that IT CLEARLY ISN’T.
The fact that I hate it gives me pause, because it means I can tell the good from the bad, and that’s worth something, isn’t it? And the fact that I care that it’s awful is encouraging, because it speaks to a dissatisfaction that is calling out for improvement, and that’s worth something, isn’t it? I mean, if it were awful and I didn’t hate it, then I might as well just pack it in right now, yeah? But I don’t feel that. I hate it and it’s awful but I don’t feel done; in fact I can’t wait to get started on the task of fixing it up so that it doesn’t suck quite so bad. And that’s worth something, isn’t it?
Mixed feelings, no doubt. But the draft is done, and that can’t be taken away from me, and that’s a pretty major fargoing accomplishment. So as much as I hate it, I’m going to cling to that for now and be happy with it. At least, I’ll try to be happy with it.
Good talk. More to say about the first draft later, but for now, it’s time to give it some room to breathe so that I don’t feel the urge to accidentally delete / destroy / burn it.