I’m writing 1000 words/ weekday on this second first draft of my novel. I’m constantly reminding myself that part of the purpose of early drafting is to write too much, to learn, discover, invent, to tell myself the story so that I can transform it into scene and figure out how to dole it out to my reader.
Yesterday, on my class call, I went on a bit of a rant. But I was pleased with the truth of it and thought I’d share some of it with you.
We have a horn player in a professional and well-respected symphony who is writing his first novel in our group. And he is often participating in calls on his way to rehearsals.
And it occurred to me that writing is the only art where people want not to have to practice. We not only want this, we expect it, and are disappointed when much of what we write is not good enough for public consumption. We want everything we do to be performance—to be consumed (and paid for) with delight by our customers.
Well, maybe we’d be okay with about a 90/ 10 ratio of performance to practice. If we had to cut 10%, we could deal with that. But as in any art and any sport, the ratio is something more like the reverse of that: 10/90. A runner doesn’t go a block or two here or there, saving up the real push for the Big Event Marathon. A pianist doesn’t insist that her seven-year-old lessons be included in her Carnegie Hall debut.
Why then do we writers feel that we are being “inefficient” if we write scenes several times before we nail it, or if we throw out 2/3rds of a draft?