Before giving you all another sneak peek at The Soul Sector, I wanted to share some thoughts on my writing process. Specifically, I want to talk about writing a first draft, because it is simultaneously suffocating and liberating. It’s an interesting experience, and one that I will try to put into words. Buckle up; it’ll be a bumpy ride.
I’ve had a lot of jobs where I’ve needed to focus on logic and order. Everything I did needed to meet a high standard. Being an author is very different. Most of the time, it requires taking a machete to logic and order, so I can float in an ethereal blob where nothing makes sense and everything makes sense. Disassociated from reality, but in a productive way!
Anyway, I’m currently writing the sequel to The Soul Sector and think this is a good time to reflect on what I learned from the first go-around. And rule number one: first drafts are going to be... not great. They’re going to be awful. Bone-numbingly bad. I always remind myself of this fact, but it’s still easy to slip into the mode of craving perfection.
This morning, I was writing a scene, and I got all turned upside down because I thought I wrote the most boring paragraph of all time. I was in quite a tizzy until I took a deep breath, and told myself: “No one will see this but you. Just keep going, get the draft done in all its messy glory.”
And with that in mind, I’m having a blast writing the sequel. I started with the barest thread of where I was going, a half-cooked outline in place, but honestly, it’s like skipping from rock to rock in a roaring river, and I’m just getting to each stepping stone, however I can. Basically, I’m following the story where the current leads me. Sometimes my fingers type out a new plot point before my mind even has a chance to come up with it on its own. I’ll call it writer’s intuition, or maybe lucid dreaming while conscious. It’s like I’m learning the story as I go, and it’s a really exhilarating process when I can surrender myself over to creative instinct and let go of that logical voice saying in my mind: “What on God’s green earth are you doing?”
Here’s how I think of writing a first draft:
Me, a cool undercover investigative journalist, sitting in a brown trench coat and wearing a tipped fedora to obscure my face, while smoking a cigar (I don’t smoke, but this mental image called for a cloud of smoke, so we’re going with it). Then, my interviewee walks into this fictional mind café I’ve conjured. So here comes Rose Ryder, and she’s looking worse for wear, like she’s got a story to tell. And she spills out her guts to me over a sugary Frappuccino, before demanding a Red Bull Vodka. She recounts her story and lets me know how she feels about everything while I write it all down in my little journal.
Of course, everything she tells me is from her perspective. So when she rants to me about a purgatory world called Valcara, I can only draw it from her own experience. That’s basically how the book gets written, at least the first draft. A conversation with the character. Rose tells me everything I need to know. So I write it from her perspective, dropping in her direct quotes as italicized thoughts in my manuscript. But I’m the writer, transcribing her story, and so my little judgmental voice comes in to comment on Rose’s journey. I like to spice it up with my own narrative flair. This is how I like to think of the role of narrator versus the point-of-view character. The Soul Sector is told from Rose’s perspective, so we know her thoughts on everything. But I’m the narrator, telling her story for her, and letting my own beliefs bleed through.
My main takeaway on writing a first draft is this: you need to go with the flow, because that’s how life is. If you plan out everything, you don’t get to experience everything new and fresh, and let it unfold in its messiness. Fiction may be a carefully constructed set of events to artificially reflect the real world, but that's how it's received by the reader, and not necessarily how it's conceived by the writer. When writing, beware the alluring pull of beautiful prose and perfection. Turn off that little voice that says what you just wrote is complete garbage. First drafts are sandboxes; make a mess, or else logic will stamp out unique storytelling.
Okay, so then there’s a first draft, and I’m like, hahaha, sweat emoji, this makes little to no sense. Wow, why did I use so many filler words like ‘just’ and ‘that'? Why are there four mixed metaphors in this one run-on sentence? Enter: editing! I’ll share my thoughts on that side of the trade in a later blog entry.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I will share a sneak peek at Chapter 2!
In the meantime, wishing you a week full of existential excellence.