Page Twenty-Five

I’ve come to the realization, through my pseudo-masochistic, life-long labor of love, that I am not a ‘plotter’.

In fact the more preparation I put into a longer piece of fiction, whether it’s a screenplay or book, the greater the odds I abandon the project, forthwith.  Despite time spent outlining, creating a three act structure, incorporating rising conflict, theme, detailed character analysis, in spite of all of this, the more time I put in, the higher the probability I jump ship, usually by page twenty-five.

Page twenty-five.

The point at which the muck & mire of my scripted creativity, the self-imposed chains of a confined journey on a one-way roadmap, prove fatal.  My efforts to craft a clever storyline, one that sees a likeable hero tackle adversity, overcome tragedy, learn a valuable life lesson, and save the day – in grandiose style, is all for naught.

My inspiration wanes, frustration kicks in, and I shelve the project.

A plotter, I am not.

Like the great unwashed, I have a drawer full of unfinished projects, abandoned, the characters within lost in limbo, trapped between pages, confined together in the darkness of storyline purgatory, awaiting rebirth, a chance to fulfill their destiny, to breath once again.

Hope springs eternal, even for the fictitious few.

My problem?

Often by page twenty-five, I realize I don’t know my characters.  I question if I ever did, their silted, on-the-nose, uninspired dialogue, echoing in my ears.

And isn’t this the same story I’ve already written?

Before I know it, the significance of page twenty-five becomes a reality, a tipping point, a watershed moment, the beginning of the end.

Stories unfulfilled.

Into the drawer.

Until recently.

Enter Blogging.

For me personally, Blogging served a purpose – to keep me writing regularly.  But it did more than that.  A year and a half in, I’ve come to a realization, one I’d overlooked for far too long.

First drafts are shit.  They’re supposed to be.

My weekly struggle to turn a few paragraphs of uninspired drivel into a well-crafted, poignant blog post, reacquainted me with the importance of revision.  I was aware of the mantra, successful writing is ‘re-writing’, and I grasped the notion, but until recently, I hadn’t practiced what was preached.

First drafts are supposed to suck.

And mine do.

In years past I’d neglected to embrace the concept.  When page twenty-five arrived, I paused to analyze my progress.  More often than not, I was disappointed, qualifying my writing as a contrived compilation of nonsensical subplots, questionable dialogue and stale language.  Inevitably, once I stopped to perform quality control, my Achilles Heel was exposed.  Internal criticism and self-doubt emerged, found the chink in my tinfoil armor, and delivered the crushing blow.

Frustration and abandonment.

But I should have kept writing.

I came to realize that murky subplots, strained dialogue, convoluted language, are all fine – for now.  They’re mechanisms only, placeholders, nothing more, words to be ignored, allowed to ferment, while the story marches on.

The process works.

And while many will argue writing without a roadmap poses risk, and I don’t disagree, whatever method works, is the right one.

I know which method I prefer.
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Aside from my weekly Blog, I’m currently working on a first draft of a novel.  No outline, no character maps, no plan.  A risk, right?

But page twenty-five has come and gone.

And as I march forward, nearing completion, I realize the answer was there all the time.

I allowed my first draft to be terrible – all 225 pages of it.

The first hurdle complete.

We all have our methods, our idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses.  In the end,  good, bad, or terrible, no one gets it right the first time around.

For anyone interested, I recommend checking out the link below, an inspiring Writer’s Digest article, one I come back to often.

Until next time,

6 Secrets of Writing a Novel Without an Outline

 

35 thoughts on “Page Twenty-Five

    • Thanks Theresa! I’m early in the process, I should be complete this week, then putting the draft away for a while. Thank you for the beta offer. I’m breaking a lot of rules with my style/approach to the story, but I’ve never been one to follow convention, at least when it comes to writing. Cheers, I appreciate the support, as always!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Congratulations, Mike! That is terrific news. What is it about? Yes, first drafts are usually crap. At least, when writing scripts that is what I find. I am really impressed. Keep up the good work & let us know your progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. interesting post. and i checked out the link. well done for realising what works and what doesn’t work for you in the very difficult writing process. i prefer to write organically too, rather than to plot. keeps the writing fresh and alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Absolutely terrific, Mike! Congratulations! I’ve heard some go through drafts and drafts and years. I do think writing from the heart and however you prefer comes out more authentic and thus connects with the readers better… My opinion. 😊 All the best with the edit / second draft.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that “the first draft will suck” lesson can be applied to so many other aspects of our life – we (at least most of us) are not born with the ability to play piano, to paint, to write a novel, yet somehow, we get it stuck in our heads that we should be able to.
    This post is encouraging and I thank you for writing it.
    And congratulations for getting over the page 25 hump!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Bravo, my friend. Having written and then redrafted the last paragraph of my first book after Kirkus Review called my claim of “go for it” trite, I have come to the same realization that you express here over time ….by myself or after positive affirmations of my mom “keep writing, what you have there is good”! I love to write whether for real or simply to play with words over and over and over. Never throwing them away just coaching them for a time to be re-awakened when the mood or the spirit strikes me. Fast forward, Blogging something totally new to me is transformational … the process I see as never ending, therefore there is no process of completion or finale other than what i NEED for the moment. A unique transformational forum for writing a memoir of sorts or how to or results oriented how to guide to transform me in the process of serving others but more importantly will over time, space and magical energy thru writing and emotion help others….As tonight your words help me! Thank you very much. (My simple book…..”Tunnel Vision, a focused life, Written by me….. nome de plume : Isadora Fokine Beauregard. I bid to you………..Happy Reading!
    I hope to connect with you again and again and again….ps…keep writing. Jan (:

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, I appreciate your kind words. Blogging has helped to keep me at least writing ‘something’ weekly, a great benefit, but still a struggle some weeks. My real love is fiction, but any writing is good writing, so I’m glad to be able to reach out and connect with other writers via my Blog.
      I checked out your site, very professional, I look forward to reading your work.
      Cheers, and thanks again for visiting!

      Like

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