Caught between Worlds

If you’re a writer, you’ve been here. I’m working like hell to sell “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter.” At the same time, I’m trying to get into the next book. Because I don’t want moss to grow under my feet. I’ve got stories to tell.

But getting started is the hard part, at least for me. I know the characters, generally, although I expect they’ll surprise me. And I know the story, more or less, although that’s why you write it down.

But the first days of actually sitting down to write are hard. You struggle to find the voice, to set the tone and the mood. And in the back of your mind you begin wondering whether you can still do it. Sure, you did it once, maybe many times. And you know, intellectually, that within a few days you’ll be into it and moving.

But as you flail at the opening pages you worry, “Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’ve lost whatever I had. Maybe I should have looked into law school after all.”

It’s time like this I remind myself of the rule of first drafts. All first drafts suck. All of them. Mine do. Yours do. Shakespeare’s did and Hemingway’s and Faulkner’s and Stephen King’s John Green’s and Neil Gaiman’s – well, OK, probably not Gaiman’s, he writes great stories in his sleep. (Seriously,  check out this video on his blog.)

But everyone else’s first draft – including the one I’ve started – sucks, and suck shard.

And that’s the gift of the first draft. Don’t be afraid that it’s going to suck, because of course it will. How can it not? You’re just discovering the story and the people in it, you’re finding your way and, just like when your stumbling along an unfamiliar path through the woods, sometimes you step in poop. And sometimes you emerge from the forest, blinking in the sunshine, to discover you’ve gone someplace completely different than you’d though you were heading.

And that’s OK. Like the man said, you can’t fix it if you don’t write it down. The first draft, which typically no one is ever going to see but you, is just you getting a bunch of ideas down in a coherent order. The writing will be great sometimes, horrible and stilted at others. You plow ahead. You get it down. You FINISH IT – before you think about going back and cleaning things up and trying to align the story you had in your head when you started with where it’s veered off.

Then you sit down and figure out how to take the hot steaming mess of a first draft and turn it into the fascinating, exciting page-turner you had in mind. Because like some other man said, all writing is rewriting.

So now I just sit at the keyboard and get to work. You don’t have to write the perfect book. You don’t even have to write the perfect sentence. You just have to write, and finish it.


In the other department, selling “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter,” things are picking up. I had my first bookstore order last week. Pirates Plunder, a quirky shop on the Seattle waterfront, ordered 24 copies. That was cool. The owner wanted them signed, so I sold them from the stock I have at home and sent them on their way.

Tomorrow is the Louisiana Book Festival. I’ve got a table there, and Tori and I are planning to spend the day in Baton Rouge, even though it’s Halloween.

The event was scheduled for outdoors in the Capitol Park, but the weather forecast calls for rain Saturday – a LOT of rain, two inches or more. Rain and books don’t go well together. So I got word this morning that they’re moving us into the museum that fronts the park. It’ll be dry, but will the potential audience/book buyers be there?

I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to right – one word after another.

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