Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"So, when do I get to read it?"

Not everybody asked that, of course, when I mentioned I just finished my draft, but quite a few people did.  Somebody even asked me that when I was still in the midst of burrowing through the tense-shifting rewrite.

The answer is, at this point, "not yet."

When I crossed the finish line in 2006, I did send out copies of the result for people to read.  Only one person managed to read it all the way through and tell me what he thought of it.  (He liked it, which was quite encouraging.)  That's sort of reason number one--I don't really feel like hanging on the edge of the "what did you think of it?" seat until the next step is figuring out what literary agents might be interested in it.

When I crossed the finish line in 2007, I was even more reluctant to show the world the result, because there was a lot I put in there in haste that I feel downright embarrassed by.  So that's the other part of it--I need to clean up those bits so I'm not cringing when I'm reading them.  Because if I'm cringing to read them, I can't imagine what someone who isn't me would think of them.  And if, for some weird reason, they liked it, I'd be put in the unfortunate position of writing to please someone who enjoyed something that I'm not altogether thrilled with myself.  That's no way to be creating art, as near as I can tell.

I have come to terms with the fact that I'm not all that good a writer on the first pass.  When I read things I've dashed off quickly, I kick myself for overusing words like "actually" and repeating clever phrases twice in one paragraph.  Backspace, cut and paste, edit buttons . . . these tools are my friends.

(Funnily enough, my vague reputation as a spoken word artist is maintained by avoiding these things entirely.  Every Sunday night at a little coffeehouse called Java Monkey, there's a poetry reading called Java Monkey Speaks.  For longer than I care to contemplate, my usual thing there is what I call my "hat trick"--I arrive just as the sign-up sheet is put up, I put my name on the list and then in the half-hour or so before the show, I write in a notebook until Kodac Harrison starts the show.  Then when my turn comes up, I get up and read what I just wrote.  It goes over surprisingly well, but it probably helps that it's spoken into the air to dissolve instead of sitting on a page for you to read and notice how crap it is.)

While perfectionism has stymied me from even starting to write for far too long, now that I've mastered the art of setting it aside to get the words down, I think I'm ready to let it back in for a spell and see about fixing things up a bit.

In the meantime, no, you don't get to read it.

1 comment:

Collin said...

Your Java Monkey observations are always a highlight for me. Wheher they work on the page or not is not the point. You're honing your writing skill, making oversavations, and picking up on dialogue. That will help while you're cleaning up the fiction. Vive la hat trick!