Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Failure of the Day: Second Draft

I took stock of where I am with Ye Olde Novel last night and was pleased to discover that I am nearly halfway through the second draft. I responded to this bit of good news in typical fashion: by finding something about it to worry about.

I have a very specific idea about what I am trying to do in the second draft; that is, taking the skeleton of mere reportage and only the grossest of emotional components and re-writing it as a cohesive narrative with emotional development as the story arc. Plus I have loads to say about being a cog in the medical system, disability and society, and that most elusive of all things, a female idea of freedom and identity.

And although that last sentence makes it sound like the reader would rather take a power drill to her temple than read the thing, I think I've got a pretty good thing going here. It's the only novel I could possibly write, and certainly the only one I will ever write, and I owe it to my overblown sense of self to do it well. Or at least correctly.

I've set November 1 as the deadline by which I want to be finished with this draft, and I'm moving toward that target nicely, I think. But (no surprises in conjunction land, I'm afraid. Everyone knew there would be a But.) I worry that rather than creating a second draft, I am creating another version of the first draft. And I worry that I am not equipped to know the difference. Speak up, writer pals. How do you know you're doing what you intend to be doing and not some other thing?

I know that in the vast and howling subjective hell of writing, the only guide you can have is your own person self, but it also seems like some things are just plainly mistakes. And I'd like to, y'know, not have so many of those. I'm putting my faith into John Gardner for the time being, but I'm just about to start reading one of his novels and if it sucks, I'll be at square one again, looking for some guy to slightly de-subjectify prose writing for me.

Man! Poetry is so much easier.


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