Sunday, July 29, 2012

First Drafts & Revisions: It's Okay to Make a Mess

As some of you may know via Facebook, I've been going through some kitchen renovations. Most experiences lead my strange brain to writing and these renovations were no different.


My kitchen BEFORE
This is what my kitchen used to look like (minus the clutter). Now think of this kitchen as the first draft of a manuscript. It doesn't seem so bad. Everything is in its place. The sink, the oven, the cupboards. Does it all work? No. My oven should've been committed to the ground a long time ago. The range hood made a horrifying sound as if it chewed on nails before it spat them out. The sink was vanishing under rust, and the doors were threatening to fall off every time I opened them. So, while this kitchen looks complete, it's far from it. So too with first drafts.


DURING the renovation

First drafts need to be worked over. They often need to be ripped apart and put back together again--especially drafts born from unplanned ideas. Even drafts that come from detailed outlines need to get messy before the writer can produce magic. Sure we could paint the old tiles, we could disguise the ugly with pretty words, but more often than not we need to get into the nitty gritty. We need to pay attention to the details and not skim over dodgey sections in the hope that no one will notice. In renovations it's the details that make all the difference. Same with writing a novel.

The crazy thing is, renovators know before they begin a task to expect the dust, the rubble, the hard work. They know they have to make a mess before they can make magic. Writers, for some reason, tend to shy away from the mess. They place an unrealistic pressure on themselves to achieve perfection on every word they write. If they don't reach perfection, or something close to perfection, then they think they are hopeless writers, that their project will never be good enough.

My kitchen AFTER
Well, that's malarkey. Mess is good. Mess gives us the freedom to experiment, to try something new, to make space for something better.

What gives you the courage to make a mess with your writing? Have you been tempted to pass over the details?

NOTE: This post was written for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers' Support Group #IWSG. I've posted early because there's been a death in the family and I have a lot of travel to do for the funeral. I'll try to do some blog visits before I leave, but if I don't make it to you, then I'll be back next week and will catch up then. 

.

68 comments:

  1. Love your new kitchen! What could be messier than renos. Good analogy. I'm currently editing my first draft and boyo what a lot of renos going on there.
    As I previously said, Lynda, my sympathies and don't go worrying about your blog. You have more important things on your mind.
    Say hello to Brisbane for me as you pass through.

    Denise

    ReplyDelete
  2. So sorry for your loss.

    The kitchen looks lovely. What gives me the courage? Well, I know that's what it takes to do it right. I desperately want to get it right, to sell my book and I'll do whatever it takes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a great analogy and good pictures to illustrate your point. I think we all despair in that middle section sometimes, when it looks like nothing will ever fall into place. But we need to remember that things often have to get worse before they get better.

    I'm sorry to hear of your loss, take care x

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't believe I've ever seen an orange kitchen before!
    The perfectionist in me fights with the first draft, but I manage to get from beginning to end without going back and trying to clean up. I do leave out some details though. I can see them much better once I have the framework down.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am sorry to hear about the death in your family. I wish you the best during your travelling. I would also like to mention that I loved the kitchen renovation. We renovated our kitchen last year, but it did not look nearly as good as yours.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hope you are doing well and so sorry about the death in your family--never easy. Praying!

    ReplyDelete
  7. excellent post! great new renovation! and super analogy!
    sorry for your loss. funerals have the positive aspect of bringing folks together to celebrate the life of a friend or relative. hopefully it was a long life. praying for you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Superb post, Lynnie.

    Like Terri, you have my prayers for safe travel and for all emotional support for you and your family, this week.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sorry to hear about the loss in your family.

    Good demonstration of the deconstruction of revision though! I'm still in first draft mode on my project and I am so guilty of not moving forward until I have the perfect chapter in place. It really slows me down. And I KNOW I'll be going back over this stuff and tearing it apart later, but I still can't leave it a mess as I write. I've really got to get over that. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Very sorry to hear of your loss :(

    I used to be very afraid of mess, thought it had to be perfect by the time I finished which meant I spent a ridiculous amount of time polishing along the way only never to reach the end (no surprise there!). Then I let go of that idea and actually finished a few books and now I outline which reduces the mess but certainly doesn't eliminate it. I like your analogy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sorry to hear of the death in your family; much sympathies, and prayers for safe travels to you.

    Love how wonderful your new kitchen looks! What a great improvement, so nice and light and clean looking now. :) And super analogy to writing--so true!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love this analogy and love your new kitchen!!

    Sometimes you must rip it apart before you can put it all back together...

    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sorry for the loss of your family member. Hope your journey is safe.

    This is a great analogy. And I love your new kitchen look!

    ReplyDelete
  14. the analogy is great, and your kitchen is awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I seem to remember those kitchen colors being in vogue in the 1970's! The new one is looking nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe the old kitchen was renovated in the early 80s. When some of the cupboards were pulled out recently, we found 1960s wallpaper underneath.

      Delete
  16. I'm sorry to hear of your loss.

    Your kitchen looks wonderful! I like the comparison to writing--it is hard to get over those perfectionist tendencies sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yes, nice, it has become brighter.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I always make a mess of the first draft. I can't help it, but it's great to go back and straighten everything up.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great analogy! And what a transformation.
    Writing is rewriting and rewriting.

    ReplyDelete
  20. So sorry to hear of your family's loss. Take care.

    Love the analogy - and also love the new kitchen! I've got a few years to go before we do the kitchen reno - can't wait!!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Your new kitchen is beautiful, Lynda :) I'm envious, and I don't even like to cook!

    As for making a mess with revisions, um...yeah. I've been there ;)

    ReplyDelete
  22. That's a good looking new kitchen you've got yourself there.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Agree... mess is needed, though when in the middle of it, sometimes it feels like I'm drowning:): Sorry to hear about the loss in your family.

    ReplyDelete
  24. That's a good looking new kitchen you've got yourself :) Good analogy too; I think I'd be a little reluctant of creating debris when tweaking my words.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Great analogy. Your kitchen looks light and fresh now.
    Sometimes editing can feel like debris LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Gorgeous new kitchen! I especially love the hardwood floor. Sometimes I get tempted to skip parts when rewriting. It's a lot of work and I just want to be done! Yet I want to present my best to my readers. I'd be embarrassed if someone caught a spelling error or if there were a big hole in the plot. So I fix and fix and fix.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Holy frioles Batman. I just had a major flashback looking at the first pic hahaha! Now that is a blast from the past.

    ReplyDelete
  28. And what a kitchen you were left with! I'm totally with you.

    ReplyDelete
  29. yep, the kitchen looks much better now!
    I would put some, petroleum blue details in it, like some kitchen utencils, objects or fabrics in that colour.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm okay with a mess. I know I'll hammer things out.

    I'm sorry about your loss. Have a safe trip.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I love this analogy, and love the "after" kitchen. Thanks for sharing the pics.

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Take care,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  32. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones. Have a safe trip, and take care of yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Your analogy to writing here is a good one. The first draft is always the messy one.

    I'm sorry for your loss and will keep you in my prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Love this post, and your kitchen's makeover. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family with the loss of your loved one, Lynda.

    ReplyDelete
  35. what a lovely kitchen and analogy--so sorry for your family's loss

    ReplyDelete
  36. NICE! I love the new kitchen!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

    ReplyDelete
  37. Sorry to hear of your loss, Lynda. Condolences to you and your family.

    Great analogy. Messes don't have to stay messes.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi, Lynda,
    My thoughts are with you and yours.
    As writers, we do demand a lot of themselves, but over time, I guess we resign ourselves to doing what we must to finish with the best possible story.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Condolences on the loss of your loved one...
    I love the renovation/revision analogy. The final product looks fabulous. All the hard work and mess paid off.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Sorry about your loss!

    Your kitchen looks great.

    As far as messes with writing goes, I've learned to make big messes! My recent manuscript was rewritten 50 times before I sent it to the agent. The agent liked it, but thought it could be better. So guess what I'm doing? Ripping it apart and changing the point of view. Big mess, but it's getting there. Agents and critique groups encourage me to make messes! But it's all for the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. whoa! Changing the POV is a big one. Best of luck with the 'renovations'. I'm sure it will be worth it in the end.

      Delete
  41. I like this post. It reminds us that we have to be brave enough to tear apart all the pieces to rearrange and maybe even rewrite. It's hard not to be attached to all the love and work we put into the first draft.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Great post as always. I have a middle grade reader with a timeline too complex for adults. It definitely needs to be ripped apart and rearranged. Great analogy.

    ReplyDelete
  43. The new kitchen looks a lot brighter.

    And the only time I can make a mess of my writing is when I have an old copied saved elsewhere so I can freely mess around but know I have the original safely stowed away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keeping an old copy definitely makes it easier to rip into the words.

      Delete
  44. Sorry to hear about the loss in your family. My condolences.

    Your kitchen looks wonderful! I'm jealous of all your counter space :) Your post was right on, as usual too. I never realized that writers don't write perfect first drafts, and I was completely frustrated that the first thing I wrote wasn't good. It was the greatest weight to be lifted off of me to know that it is normal to have crappy first drafts!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Great analogy. Lovely new kitchen! :)

    And sorry to hear about your loss. :( Wishing safe travel for you and yours.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I'm sorry to hear about the death in the family.

    Your new kitchen looks great, and I love how you related the remodel to writing. It's so true. Sometimes we have to make a mess of a manuscript to come out with something all shiny and new.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Lynda - your kitchen looks so lovely! I need to give myself more permission to make a mess. A lesson I recently had hammered home to me after listening to an interview by Laini Taylor.

    I agree, we need to be able to let go to find the magic.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Wow! That is one amazing transformation! Did you do it yourself?

    I have a book that is a great story that I need to basically dismantle and redo. I can't seem to work up the motivation... Must... work... it up! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I definitely didn't do the renovations myself. I wish I was that skilled.

      I hope you find your motivation :)

      Delete
  49. The kitchen looks beautiful. Wow! What a change!
    I tend to do a lot of remodeling after my first drafts. A Lot.
    Really enjoyed the post!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Great make over and I loved the metaphor for writing. Change is something I need in a lot of my stories and the messiness is just part of the process to producing something better.

    So sorry about your family's loss. This is not a good summer for ours either. Sending good and healing thoughts your way.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I have made several messes with my MS, skimmed over details and sometimes I have worked on it when my mind has been elsewhere.

    Sorry to hear about the death in your family.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Wow, it looks lovely now!
    If only my manuscripts looked so polished...
    Love that word, malarkey :-)

    ReplyDelete
  53. I love the mess! I know I'm gonna make a mess of things before I make it resemble anything like a book. I know it takes months, even years, of hard work. I prefer to start thin and add as I go rather than pull all the pieces in and rearrange them until I see that I have to take some out. It just works better for me that way.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Yes, ripping a WIP apart is a good thing! :)

    ReplyDelete
  55. Wow,what a change with the renovations!
    As far as getting messy, when I begin to write, I throw the idea onto paper before it slips away. By the time I'm finished with a paragraph describing a character, I have all sorts of body parts and articles of clothing in a puddle on the page. I go back, pick it apart, and dissect everything that spilled out of my brain to describe the character, scene, or whatever, in the exact way that I envisioned it.
    I love the mess. It is a loose, anything goes kind of feeling that makes me feel comfortable and lets the writing flow.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I guess I have to finish the first draft of the WIP to begin ripping it apart :)

    Love your AFTER kitchen, btw, Lynda!

    ReplyDelete
  57. Congrats! We recently finished redoing our kitchen...what a project! So much time and effort. It actually took us a year from start to finish.

    ReplyDelete
  58. The new kitchen is quite beautiful. Sorry about the death in the family, best regardds to you and yours.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I'm back from my travels and I'm exhausted. Thank you so much for all your prayers and condolences. I really appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  60. I'm embarking on a messy draft 2, right now. You're right some writers do beat themselves up, that's me right now...

    If I can just get the first chapter ti a better place I'll feel better going forward.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I love the pics and think the new kitchen looks wonderful. It's a nice metaphor to compare renovating with revising. Lucky for me, revisions cost less so I can afford more of them! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  62. I liked your analogy between story revisions and home renovation - very evocative! I've been slowly learning to make a mess with my stories. It's a factor of maturity as a writer, I think, to be able to edit and self-criticize really well. Hopefully I'm on the way! Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.