A popular post from August 2009
by Julie Wright
I've likely blogged on this topic before, but I'm a little redundant as a human anyway so bear with me. I read in Stephen King's book, On Writing (brilliant book, if you haven't read it, why haven't you?), that the first draft of a novel should be written with the door closed. This means that no one is watching. You can put in whatever cheesy line you want. You can make it be a bit absurd. You can riddle your manuscript with adverbs and metaphors that make no sense. You can go on at great length about the minutest of details. You can have lengthy bouts of exposition while you explore your own world and come up with back history.
There is great joy to be found in writing with the door closed. It is so painless.
Then the second draft happens. Mr. King says the second draft needs to be written with the door open. This is the draft we know our family, friends, and enemies will be reading. This is the draft for public review. Leaving the door open is painful.
I despise the process of opening the door. I've lost many great lines to the open door policy. Knowing my target audience, those lines couldn't stay and it broke my heart to hit the delete button. I also despise opening the door because I'm afraid I didn't edit all the absurdities out. Did I get rid of all those lengthy bouts of exposition? Did I really delete all the cheesy things my characters did and said?
If I didn't, someone will be sure to let me know about it. Reviews are so much fun that way. Or not. Open doors means that you, the author, are open to criticism.
I endorse writing the first draft with a closed door. You need to be allowed to write bad pages so you can move forward with the blocks and funks that come with writing a manuscript.
But that doesn't mean you should hide behind the door. You can fiddle forever with a manuscript and never really be done, but a point has to come where you just let go.
Janette Rallison wrote into one of our online writer's groups in response to the question, "when is enough, enough?" Janette responded, "If you've been working on it for four years, it's probably past time. Send it out and start working on your next manuscript."
The longest it has taken me to finish a manuscript was with my first one. I kept the door closed a whole lot of years. I started it when I was fifteen and finished when I was 24 years old. Nine years of hiding behind the door. Then I hid a few years longer by not submitting the manuscript. I finally submitted and had the book published when I was 29 years old.
Oddly enough, I finished my second manuscript in just under six months after getting the first one published. What was the difference?
I realized I could. By getting one out there, I *knew* I could do it again. Confidence is an amazing cure for writer's block. There is no such thing as second manuscript infertility. So if you're writing with the door closed and it's been a while, you might want to try opening that door up to all the possibilities out there.
Just curious, what was the longest amount of time you guys took on a manuscript?