A Matter of Perspective

Jessie: Looking out the window at eight, yes eight, fresh inches of  snow.

Writers tend to fall into two camps on the subject of writing or rewriting and which it is they prefer. Lovers of first draft enjoy the unbridled fun of seeing where their thoughts will take them, where the story could possibly go. Revisers prefer winnowing out the chaff and finding all the good stuff hidden in amongst the junk. The grass is always greener and I find I envy the passion and openness first draft aficionados say they feel.

I’m a reviser all the way. For me, first draft is about as much fun as a bout of stomach flu on a transatlantic flight. I type with my shoulders creeping up around my ears. This is probably a defense mechanism attempting to muffle the voice in my head reminding me I have no idea what I am doing or where I am going. Lately, I’ve caught my shoulders up around my ears even when I am not typing.

But some time ago, a new thought occurred to me. I love to throw parties; big parties with silly themes, sparkling stemware and elaborate finger food. I realized, just maybe, first draft could be like mailing out party invitations to people I have never met and then finding out who they are once they arrive.

I write loose outlines for all my books now and have come to think of them a bit like having written down a menu and a shopiing list but really having no idea if everything will work out. I’ve realized, as I put words on the screen, a scene at a time, it is like opening the door to greet guests and get to know them. I see how they look, get to know their sense of humor, find out what they prefer to eat. Do they hug the corners or head for the biggest group of strangers and take center stage? Do they prefer blue drinks with pink umbrellas or dry martinis with three olives and a whisper of vermouth? Do they have more fun if they help in the kitchen or would they rather supervise the music?

With this fresh perspective I’ve been learning to enjoy first draft. I sit at the keyboard each writign session with a sense of anticipation and with the expectation of a good time. I feel like an enthusiastic and experienced hostess instead of a bad driver lost in an unfamiliar city at rush hour. I may never end up liking first draft as much as I do revisions but if I keep convincing myself that working on first draft is like eating a serving of my second favorite dessert I might just make it all the way to the second draft without needing a chiropractor. When I get done with my current one, I may even throw a party.

Readers, how have you convinced yourself to see something differently? Writers, do you prefer working on first of subsequent drafts?

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