I’ve just finished the first draft of my second novel and I’m fairly pleased with the result. Now it’s off to the beta readers, then more revision, then off to my critique partners, then more revision–and repeat.
I came across this Irving quote this morning as I was putting together a handout for the parents of my young writers club members and it sang to me on more than one level. Just like a novel, life is one great, unfinished manuscript, one that we spend a lot of time trying to perfect and never quite achieve. Unlike an actual manuscript, however, we can’t so easily erase our “shitty first drafts“.
But…we can revise. We can improve. We can choose better, stronger, kinder words, and show our feelings through action instead of dialogue. We can change our actions if they don’t ring true for our character. (Or for the character we wish to be.) We can cut out those characters who don’t bring value to our story, or worse, turn it into horror or tragedy. Likewise, we can give those quirky or unassuming characters a more prominent place in our plot. Maybe we can’t delete that first draft, but we can certainly go on to write a new one.
Life is full of plot points that go nowhere, subplots that take over our main theme, heroes and villains and spunky sidekicks that jump off the page–sometimes unexpectedly. Through it all, we keep on writing our story–living one moment after another, revising when necessary.