Brand New Skin: Editing A Zero Draft

Statler and Waldorf

Statler: Wake up you old fool. You slept through the story. Waldorf: Who’s a fool? You read it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a shitty part about doing a zero draft, and it is this: sometimes you have to look at a mess you’ve made and realize you’ve now got to make something worthwhile out of it. And, fuck, that seems like a lot of work.

Funny, the idea of just writing it the right way the first time around never seems like as much work. Just think it out until it all lines up perfectly and then write it. Right?

If you can actually do this, then I salute you. Also, I’m probably going to hunt you down and eat your brain in the hopes of gaining your powers.

Zero drafts are a mess. They’re stories without their skin on, just the bones and blood and unidentifiable bloated squashy bits all kind of hanging together in a semi-cohesive shape. It’ll fall apart if you so much as look at it funny. That’s why we edit: to make it stronger and better and generally less fucked up.

Sometimes that’s a tall order. For example, my own editing adventures yesterday led me to write this comment on a particularly weak section:

“Yes, bring me the Macguffin! Or horrors will befall thee! I’m not sure what horrors yet, but they will be horrors! Beware the unspecified horrors! Beeeeewaaaaaaaaaare.”*

I am my own Statler and Waldorf.

There are big fucking sections of this thing that are going to get mown down like the nameless security forces in every action movie. Huge chunks that are going to be ripped off like splints and bandages. And, like those splints, they served a purpose once: they kept things moving. They made me move on, write on, get the story into some kind of order, no matter how flawed that order seems now.

But their time has passed, and they are no longer useful. So they have to go. And I need to build the story strong enough to stand up without them.

It’s going to be a lot of work. But I think I can get it there. And Macguffin-free, too.

*My comments on my own work are about 50% useful notes, 20% questions, 20% mockery, and 10% ‘What the unholy fuck?’ notation.

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4 thoughts on “Brand New Skin: Editing A Zero Draft

  1. Your own Zeroeth Law of Writing…very nice.

    Writing those initial words is like a trust exercise that has gone horribly wrong because you never quite hit the ground, but rather keep spinning until you puke something out (how’s that for metaphor goulash?).

    Keep puking, my friend! Randy

  2. Reblogged this on createdbyrcw and commented:
    A Zeroeth Law of Writing.
    Writing those initial words is like a trust exercise that has gone horribly wrong because you never quite hit the ground, but rather keep spinning until you puke something out (how’s that for metaphor goulash?).

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