No, I’m not talking about the four-letter variety. I mean those proverbial million bad words that every writer has to write before getting published.
Whether or not you buy into the million bad word theory, you have to admit that most of our early writings are pretty bad. I started skimming over Conspiracy today as I was starting the Great Transfer from Word to Scrivener (headache and a half, BTW), and some of the early stuff is just appalling. It makes me cringe. Adverbs, glances in the mirror, distant viewpoint… oh, it’s so bad, some of it.
A tiny part of me wants to say, “The hell with it!” and just rewrite the whole damn thing from scratch without ever looking at the first draft.
That’s not a productive thing to do, though, and I’ll tell you why.
I started a new job today. It’s part-time at a small gifts, jewelry, and et cetera store, right on our town’s lovely little square. I enjoy shopping at this store, and I think I’ll like working there. I’m old-hat at retail, too, so I’m learning the ropes without too much hair-pulling.
But every time anyone starts a new job, there is much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing. You inevitably charge someone too much, make an ass of yourself, and can’t find the socks in a shoe department, just because you’re new at the job. It’s horrible, you’re rushing around like a kid on field day at school, and nothing adds up.
A few months later, you look at those days and grimace. Thing is, though, you would never have become competent at your job without those awkward headless chicken moments.
The early words in a novel are like those early days at a job. You’re getting your feet under you, learning your characters’ voices, figuring out where the socks are and who needs them.
I feel this metaphor is unraveling as my cold medicine wears off, so I’ll wrap it up with this: You have to learn from the bad words. Don’t ignore them, or you’ll never figure out why they’re bad. Just let them teach you how your novel works, and in few more drafts, no one will ever know they existed.
I agree! Err, I mean I like your theory about churning out the bad words AND learning from them to make your writing better.
I like chatting to writers/editors with the same insight as you. I’m off this page to discover more about this blog …
And I think everyone on my Twitter account deserves to read this too. Ciao.
I’m glad you liked it! Thanks for the follow and the tweet, and I hope to see you around some more. 🙂
It’s hard to keep going when you constantly think of a past scene being AWFUL OH MY GOD WHY WOULD YOU PUT THESE WORDS TOGETHER IN THIS WAY!!! So I make notes and keep going.
I have to go change some of those bad words because an entire scene makes no sense now, because I changed what happened in my head and said “I’ll fix it later.” Now I have people who want to read over it while I read over their work so I have to go make this dock into a bridge and this lake into a river, and make this character that I wanted to be sympathetic into a jerk otherwise there’s no real motivation to defy him.
Bad BAD words! No publishing contract!
Yeah. Bad words. I’m going to have to read my first drafts with a squirt bottle to punish the words.
I hope you are right. 😮
Me, too. Oh, goodness. Me, too. 🙂
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