Posts Tagged ‘messy first drafts’

I’ve always loved this quote on writing from E.L. Doctorow:

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Except. Right now. In the midst of the ugliest first draft I have ever ever ever ever tried to wrestle; I feel like I am writing in complete darkness. I can’t see what I’m doing, but I can’t seem to leave it alone either. I’m trapped. 

It’s like I am writing in the belly of the whale. Read this poem to see exactly what I’ve been doing.


By Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

Here’s wishing you lots of light.

Sarah Tomp


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I love hearing all the ALA Awards news! It’s exciting to hear what books stood out, which ones are the shiniest and brightest for the moment. I’ve actually read quite a few of the 2013 winners – well, more than any other year – but I still have lots of new ones added to my to-read list.

IMG_4909And then there’s the thing staring at me from my desk.

I’d forgotten how hard it is to get through a first draft. What a mess it is.

And, how much writing is like dating.

Starting a new WIP is like meeting someone new and interesting. There’s the spark, the allure. The thrill of what might happen.

This new relationship started well. Our banter and flirting has been fun. I’ve been daydreaming about handsome, mysterious, oh-so-intriguing Mr. WIP.

But now we’re kind of getting past that everything-is-perfect stage. We have to actually hang out together. To ask the hard questions. To spend lots of time together. I’m starting to suspect those nagging doubts are there for good reason. I’ll have to dig deeper, see if I like what I find behind the shiny facade. See if I’m willing to put the time and effort in to actually making this work.

I think we’ve had our first fight.

All of a sudden those old WIPs – the ones I’d said goodbye too are looking pretty good again. Maybe I should give one another go. For old time’s sake.

But there’s a reason we broke up. I have to remember that. Take the lessons learned as I move on.

I guess I’ll go on another date with the new one. Fingers crossed it’s not like *****.


Sarah Wones Tomp


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