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.
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.
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.
Into the drawer.
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.
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,