Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Shitty Fourth Drafts

One of the assignments for my Fiction Techniques course is to read "Shitty First Drafts", from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  I found this a comforting commentary on the writing process.  We all write shitty first drafts, hooray!

The second assignment was to write a short piece of fiction.  It didn't have to be a complete work, just a short scene in which our character goes through some difficulty.  I dutifully wrote out my shitty first draft.  It was shitty, but I liked some parts.  So I ripped it apart and cobbled together a second draft.  I was still unhappy.  I revised again and wrote a third draft, even shittier than the first.  "Hmm, self," I thought to myself.  "Perhaps we've missed the mark on this one."  I gave it a fourth try, thinking it would magically turn into some fantastic piece of writing.  No such luck.  It became a shitty fourth draft instead.

At this point, I threw it in the bin and started over with another character, another scene.  I wrote another shitty first draft, and it was even shittier than my first shitty first draft.  "Darn it all," I said.  "Maybe I need a new character."  I thought and I thought and I thought, but I couldn't come up with a new character.  Saddened, I turned to one of my favorite characters.  You see, I'd only ever written about his adulthood.  I'd never written about, or even discussed, his childhood--though it had been alluded to at one time or another.  "That's it, self," I said to myself.  "Write about that.  Let the creative juices flow!"

So, I wrote a third shitty first draft.  Rather pleased with myself, I revised it into a pretty-okay second draft.  Now, with this in hand, I'm thinking I might be able to come up with a decent third draft that I wouldn't be totally ashamed to read out loud in public or turn in to my professor.  All it took was three shitty first drafts, a series of shitty second through fourth drafts, and a trash can.

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