The voices on my shoulder

It’s about at this point in a first draft that the voices are getting hard to ignore. Not the voices of the characters—although yes, some of those are more real than the voices of my actual family—but the voices reminding me of all the things this manuscript doesn’t do.

There’s no real sense of the villain here, the internal critics say. (Yes, but that will come with the excerpt from the journals, which I haven’t written yet.)

You’re writing about airplanes in 1924. You know nothing about airplanes, even in 2008. (But, I have several names of people who do.)

Yet again you major plot elements depending on rail schedules, although you haven’t the faintest idea when those trains went there, do you? (Again, I have a Name!)

And what about the bee thing? You don’t have that sorted yet, do you, even though it’s the title of the damn book? (No, but there’s a guy right down the road who…)

Are we sensing a theme here? Is it that Laurie’s first drafts are absurdly incomplete and utterly unreadable?

Well, yes. On the other hand, it exists. It’s a nearly-there draft of a novel, with a beginning, a muddle, and an end. (And no, that’s not a typo.) I can see the central theme, and feel how it ties in to the minor themes and the events themselves, and although a theme is not a story and probably won’t even be detectable to anyone but me and one or two very analytic readers, it’s important to me, for the future decisions that support it. And there are two or three scenes that make me smile and will probably need no changes whatsoever (Whee—maybe ten pages in the whole thing will need only minor tweaks of vocabulary and timing and information and…)

At this point, even the voices of criticism have to admit, my List of Things To Do is first-rate.

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  1. Lauren on March 17, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I love Anne Lamott’s thoughts on first drafts in Bird by Bird. That has helped me write many a paper. Knowing that it doesn’t have to be perfect gives me the freedom to let it be bad for a little bit.
    Reading about your writing process has been fascinating. I love that you’re letting us into your world in this way.
    And it seems that a good To Do List is half the battle.

  2. Teresa on March 17, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto… and I love it too.



  3. Vicki Lane on March 17, 2008 at 10:33 am

    There has never been a better description of my own WIP — a beginning, a muddle, and an end! Thank you for bringing a big grin to my face as I struggle through my own muddle. Knowing that LRK too goes through this awkward adolescent stage is so encouraging! Vicki L.

  4. Sara on March 17, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I think that the only two things we aren’t supposed to want to see being made are laws and sausages. Novels fall under neither of those categories.

    How does one go about finding an expert on early-to-middling 20th century British railway timetables? What a niche that one is…

  5. nkk1969 on March 17, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    [novel, with a beginning, a muddle, and an end.]

    Gotta love this line! My WIP has had most of middle and an almost end for what? six years now. I lack only (only, she says!) the first two chapters or so. Right now I ‘d have to call what I have a bad-ginning–I know what happens and how, but cannot write it in the…format (?) it needs. The moral of this story is better a muddle than a bad-ginning. 😉


  6. riobonito on March 17, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Brilliant…can’t wait!

  7. Real Icon on March 18, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Rail schedules? A subtle gesture of reverence to Sayer’s “Five Red Herrings”?

  8. tangential1 on March 18, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Speaking of things that bring a grin…

    I think that the only two things we aren’t supposed to want to see being made are laws and sausages.

    That was an awesome remark, Sara.;)

    And yes, where does one find someone with knowledge of early 20th century railway timetables??

  9. Strawberry Curls on March 18, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I must confess I treat these blog entries about the next Russell book as if they were a type of Advent Calendar. We get to open a window and learn a nugget about the book each time one is posted. It somehow makes the waiting far more enjoyable and heightens the anticipation. Thank you for giving us these windows.


  10. Sara on March 19, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you, tangential1!

    We should put that timetable query in the VBC question section. Seriously, who knows stuff like that? I keep picturing a crotchety old man in a cabbie hat sitting at a decrepit seldom-visited train station in rural England, barking out schedules like Rain Man.

  11. Lorraine on March 21, 2008 at 4:18 am

    Out of curiosity I checked ebay and there are lots of old railway timetables. The oldest I saw was 1874.

    I can’t wait to continue the adventures of Russell and Holmes!

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