Friday, April 10, 2009

Overflowing with Rain & Ideas

My rain barrel runneth over. Last summer's brutal heat prompted many of us to find ways to save water. I got this cool rain barrel to catch water from my gutter. April showers now, and it's overflowing. I'll catch what I can to keep the shade garden in the back lush when the dry heat of July sets in.

Ideas work like that, too. For first drafts, especially. Gushing sometimes, overflowing so you write as fast as you can to catch it all, to keep your garden of words lush, too. You'll need that pure fount of inspiration, of metaphor, of vivid dreaminess to sustain you later when the first draft is finished, and ready for sifting through, deleting, editing, revision. Kill your darlings, Faulkner said.

I've been talking a lot about first drafts lately. Writing first drafts of novels is such a different experience from subsequent drafts and the revision and editing that comes later. [And because my extended metaphor today runs watery and fluid, here's a dry and dirty take: Stephen King likens writing a novel to dusting off fossils-- as if the ideas and characters, the stories, are already there, waiting to be discovered.]

As tempting as it is to tread water and start editing or tinkering with sentences midway in a first draft, I've found--and heard other novelists say--one should try to keep the momentum, and don't get snagged. This seems especially true with first chapters: one tends to re-read and polish those opening pages again and again, investing so much time and energy in them that you'll naturally resist any revisions or major edits [or deletions] to them later, when you have a whole organic manuscript to consider. Keep on going.

A worthy goal for a first draft: 1,000 words a day. Let it pour.


  1. We really need to get some rain barrels. But as my husband says we need to invest in some gutters first.

  2. I see your point. But my gutters are pretty leaky, and my rain barrel still fills up fast.

  3. Mindy, I received the moonflower seeds today. Thanks so much. And they arrived on my birthday!
    Thanks again.


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