First Drafts. Or, Ode to Post-its
Okay, so I finished the first draft of my current work in progress (WIP, from now on). And boy is it rough. Really rough. Roughity-rough-rough. It is not fit for human eyes, which is why tomorrow I'm gonna get started on the second draft. I bought a red marker and everything. (I also bought some pretty Post-its as a reward. Yes, Post-its are perhaps a weird gift to oneself for a job well done but I am addicted to them, for reasons that will probably not be any clearer by the end of this post. I do what I want.)
The point is that typing The End doesn't really signify that the book is done. There's a lot of stuff in here that I still have to develop, remove, or work with. For instance, one of my heroes goes through a small personality crisis in the first few chapters. It's obvious, looking back, that I was struggling to identify how my heroes' interactions would play out, but at the time I wasn't sure what was going on, so one of them had a bit of a personality transplant. And because I couldn't figure out how to fix it, I just moved on.
Other problems--one of my heroes developed a sudden love of woodturning about halfway into the book (and quite unexpectedly), and I was forced to interrupt the flow to do some basic research so I didn't end up writing a bunch of pages I couldn't use because they didn't make sense later. But I really only did the bare minimum to get by, so there are places where there's just red text that says INSERT DESCRIPTION OF SOMETHING NOT-CRAPPY HERE.
Another issue is that some of my characters are Russian, and that means a lot of research into a culture that I mostly know from movies that took place during the Cold War (with varying accuracy) and TV shows where people named Boris go moose-hunting (with zero accuracy). Plus, Russian names are confusing as hell to Americans, and I'll be the first to admit that I need help on this issue. So I've got a bunch of comments in the WIP that say things like IS THIS REALLY A RUSSIAN CULTURAL TOUCHSTONE OR DID YOU GET THIS FROM DAREDEVIL? DO RESEARCH. BE PROFESSIONAL. BUY MORE POST-ITS.
Cultural research isn't something you can easily get from a book though, so that means setting up interviews with folks who can answer my questions and tell me when I'm being a dope. And setting up interviews is nerve-wracking. I always feel like a jerk. I mean, I can imagine what it would feel like to have this American chick come weaseling up next to you with a notepad, saying "tell me all about your family and culture so that I can mine them for details and use them for my own purposes. I might not even do it respectfully." (I totally will do it respectfully, but I can see how an interviewee would be nervous about this). It always feels just a little slimy, and I don't like doing it, so I often put it off even though I've yet to have an interviewee be anything but perfectly gracious and interested in helping me get the details right.
There's other stuff that needs to be fixed, too. Large and small. Easy and difficult. I need to learn more about Puerto Rico beyond their current debt crisis (it's awful, in case you didn't know. Go look it up. John Oliver does a great vid on the topic. Take tissues). I need to read more coming out interviews. I've read a metric ton of them already, but I'm really worried about getting that part right, so I'm probably going to be reading them until the book is actually published. (And with my luck, that's when I'll have a brilliant idea).
I have marked all of these quibblesome things that require revision with Post-its.
I don't even really need to--I do have my big, honking red marker, after all. But I use them to make little notes (which could absolutely go in the margins) and to draw little pictures (depending on my mood, some of the these pictures are lazy doodles. Some of them are cute. One of them, attached to a scene that was nightmarish to write, is of a dinosaur with a dick for a head, which I dubbed Sir Penisaurus Rex. As you do).
The thing is, revision sucks. Not because I'm that bad at it--I'm critical enough of myself that my problem is actually knowing when something is good enough--but because it is tedious. And exhausting. An hour of drafting has me hyped and bouncy and bursting with ideas. An hour of revision has me in a bad mood, wishing I'd taken up something soulless to match my negative world view, like hushing up defenseless whistleblowers or something.
The point is that brightly-colored Post-its (and the occasional obscene sketch), give me a tiny boost. Lots of Post-its give me an even bigger boost.
I suppose the gist of this post is that I finished the first draft of my WIP. I will now decorate it with brightly-colored notes detailing my failures as a writer and the occasional anatomically-incorrect dinosaur.
The other gist (I can have more than one if I want to) is to say that when I ask my family for gift cards to OfficeMax for Christmas, I ain't kiddin'. Contrary to what the literati would have you believe, most writers are poor. Yes, I mean me. Dozens of Post-it packs add up.
And because I want you to be happy, here is another picture of my Post-its. These are larger for more gratuitous note-taking, but size really doesn't matter. Ahem.
Don't even get me started on self-stick Page Flags. That'll go on for hours.