Tuesday, 25 May 2010

2nd Draft, first swim

sunny, hot, temps 30

Gorgeous day. slight breeze - brushing away most of the black flies. Started with breakfast in Cowansville. Then home to start the second draft of book 7.

There are two terrifying days in my writers calendar. The first day of the first draft...I hate first drafts. Very scary. And the first day of the second draft - or the first edit.

that's today. I love editing, but the first day is terrifying because I've just spent 3 months fighting to keep the big, fat, stinky critic at bay. Behind the bulging door.

And now I have to let it out. I need the critical eye and thoughts for the editing. But by now the critic has grown mighty bitter and pissed-off and full of bile. It's just mean. And it's in the room with me. Venting. Screaming that I've just wasted 3 months. That the entire first draft is the worst pile of skunk poop ever dropped. That the characters are cardboard, the story confusing, the conclusion cliched. and, while we're at it, I'm fat and stupid and ugly. And, are you really going to wear that???

Yikes.

You can see why the first day of editing is pretty gruesome.

As it approached I kept reminding myself to stay in the day, in the moment. Don't think ahead. Just write down ideas as they came and don't listen to the critic warming up in the background.

As I went for walks I tried to open my mind for inspiration, and ask for help and guidance, and courage.

this morning, the first day of editing, I lay in bed and opened emails...and there was a message from a woman I hadn't seen or spoken to in 40 years. In her long email she was describing a mutual acquaintance...and her description was exactly what I was trying to do with the book. I wrote her back and thanked her - and asked if she minded if I used some of what she wrote as inspiration. And she said not at all.

It was so strange. Like waking up to an email from the gods of inspiration. It was thrilling. As I read her message so much of what I had to do became clear. Often it's just a turn of phrase...as it was in this case.

So I sat down and re-wrote the whole first chapter. Using what I already had as a base...but coming at it from a different angle. It feels right and good - and calming.

The first day is always the hardest. But when it was over Michael and I celebrated with our first swim of the season in the pool. The kids swam all weekend - the temperature in the pool was 70! Since the forecast was for continued hot weather through the week we put the heat pump on and it's now in the low 80's.

Back to editing tomorrow. It gets progressively easier. And more exciting, as the fear slips away.

7 comments:

Reen said...

Good to hear I'm not the only one with a loud inner critic playing havoc tag with my ego.

Dana said...

Do what you always do, Louise. It works so well.
Your comment about fat and ugly took me back ten years to hear my two year old grandchild explain "Nana, pregnant people aren't the only fat ones. Old people get fat too." Double whammy!I did not think I was either.

Darlene said...

Wow! I hope you stop berating yourself soon. Do you reach a point where it sings to you and you know you've got it right -- is that how it works -- and until then you loathe it?

You're a great writer. Just look at your awards. Breathe and believe.

Brenda B. said...

Dear Louise,

Thank you for writing so honestly about your process. I hope you will find it more enjoyable tomorrow, and the critic's voice fainter yet.

Your finished work shows your commitment to taking every necessary step to do it right. It's inspiring.

Best to you on Day Two,


Brenda B. in Maine

Aimee said...

You need to take that mean inner critic and drown it in the pool. Because it's wrong. Unless you're using a magic wand during that edit the 1st draft must be almost as amazing as the finished product.

Diane said...

Thanks for sharing re the critic. Never completely disappears in my case, is resurrected as soon as I start to evaluate and I lose my sense of perspective.

It takes a lot of courage to get past the critic and that you have lots of -- on wonderful book #7, can't wait to read.

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi all,

Thank you for your words about the critic! Loved the comment about 'old people get fat too'! Hilarious. I'd hate to think how the kids visiting this past weekend viewed me. Best not to ask.

And yes, after 6 books I know this is just my process. Fear - insecurities - and overcoming them. In my experience it's the difference between a dilitant and a professional...not the lack of fear but being willing to do it anyway.