Today, in an effort to clear out some clutter from the writing room, I tossed my body weight in drafts of Blackbringer, Silksinger, and Lips Touch into the recycling. Well, okay, I asked Jim to do the actual tossing, since I'm not supposed to lift heavy things, and he argued with me. He didn't think I should get rid of them. And it did feel kind of weird. But . . . really, what am I supposed to do? Keep a stack of paper the height of a four-year-old for every single book? Our 1924 cottage is seriously lacking in storage space. If all goes as planned, the number of books will mount over the years, and that's a lot of four-year-olds taking up space in the house! They had to go. (Old manuscript drafts, not actual four-year-olds. No four-year-olds were recycled.)
I kept some things, like early drafts of Silksinger, which are both fascinating and painful to look through, because they are VASTLY different from the final and they bring back all the agony of uncertainty. I was on a really different track when I started writing that book and it wasn't working out. It took FORTITUDE to keep going and find the right story. In fact, I think if that book had not been under contract as part of a two-book deal, I may not have written it. It was hard. (Imagine that said in a pitiful whine.) I'd have given up; I'm sure of it. But I didn't, and the book exists, and I love it. So: hurray!!!
Speaking of old drafts, while I was going through old floppies last week looking for the paintings I posted before, I came across a folder entitled "Witch Novel" and pulled this off onto my desktop. In the early days of writing Blackbringer I was working on two novels. The other one was the witch novel, and I'd leap back and forth between them when one or the other got rough. Eventually [lightbulb] I realized if I wanted to finish anything I had to choose between them -- a Sophie's choice -- and I chose the "Fairy Book." It was a fairly arbitrary choice, actually. I loved them both.
Anyway, I read about 20 pages of the witch novel yesterday, and as I read it, I recalled sitting at the kitchen table writing it . . . and rewriting it and rewriting it (those first twenty pages, anyway), as was my way. So what did I find, looking at it again?
I found that there was some nice writing in it -- some good sentences, some cool ideas. And I found that it didn't flow very well. It had a choppiness; rereading it, I could feel my seriousness, my fear, my groping for the story. I could feel how badly I wanted each line to be perfect. Ah, perfectionism, it can turn the act of writing into a misery. You want so badly for everything to be just so that you ache with every little snag, every hint of imperfection.
Sigh. It is something to learn to overcome. Reading that old manuscript was kind of like a time machine to the "time before" -- the time before I had learned to overcome my terrible paralyzing perfectionism. (Don't get me wrong, I still struggle with it each and every sentence.) But it was nice to be able to say to myself I have made progress. I have written three books. I figured some stuff out. And I still want to write the witch novel. I think it's an awesome premise with tons of potential for fun. I wonder when it will find its way to the front of the line of books waiting to be written.
There are so many. Now that I've proven I can write a book, my next huge challenge is to become increasingly efficient. And now more than ever this is crucial, because people tell me MY WHOLE LIFE IS GOING TO CHANGE and I don't doubt it for a second. It will be interesting. Very, very interesting.
Reading The Ark's Anniversary but Gerald Durrell now, written on the occasion of his zoo's 25th anniversary, and in it is a mention of his going down to his house in the south of France to write a book (books were his bread and butter for years, and what kept the zoo beasties in fruit & meat, and kept the creditors from the door). How swell, to pop down to one's house in the south of France to write a book. One imagines that with such tranquility and "away-from-it-all-ness" that the book would just pour out. One imagines. One imagines many things, many fantastical and false things. Surely it would still be a struggle, with the added difficulty of wanting to go wander in a vineyard or buy excellent cheese. But. A secluded writing house is still at the top of my fantasy list.
Just add a Mary Poppins to the fantasy now :-)