This past week I’ve really been getting into gear on my Iron Stars novella. Science fiction, giant robots. It’s my first new project of length in over a year. I actually began it because I’d been reading so many craft articles, I wanted to try some of the techniques I’d been reading about and didn’t want to outline an entire novel. It became small enough to plan relatively quickly (a couple of weeks), but it’s large enough you have to make some of the same structural decisions with a novel. And it is growing – right now we’re about 39k words, but we’re at least more than halfway there
It’s been different than prior first drafts. Prior first drafts I turkey-flailed through the middle, agonized about what was going to happen, would randomly add new characters that never went anywhere, and mostly agonize my way through the draft. That stress was a result of poor process. Having done the proper pre-writing up front now, in working in this draft I (re) learned something:
Man, first drafts are fun. I don’t have to stress about where is this story going (I know), I don’t have to worry about writing something polished, I can just take to the keyboard and fly. I’m free to have fun and enjoy the ride, knowing in general where it is going and getting to spend my energy coming up with fun details to make it more exciting. And spending energy on those little embellishments is just intoxicatingly fun. This past weekend, I knew they had to meet a character, learn some clues about the big mystery, and then there was going to be a chase as they left. So how could I make it interesting?
Somewhere between my characters running through an elaborate space-debris junkyard, an armored exo-suit chasing them, and a character sliding down a 60 foot LED sign, I sat back going “Wow, this scene is awesome.” It made me smile. And that’s something important to remember: while slogging through a day job, grinding through projects, and the agony/ecstasy of revision, writing makes me smile.
I do think other people will like these scenes, eventually. It is a first draft right now, which means it is almost by definition shit. Picking out those gems, polishing them, taking the reader in new and unexpected directions, those are all things that are part of the process. I hope to share them some day on the other side of the process. But right now, this week, this day, this part of the process, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because that process brings me joy. This is why I do what I do.
Judgement and thought will come later. Revision will give me perspective, and maybe these scenes don’t stand up. Maybe they’re actually just annoying. But right now I don’t care. The first draft is the fun draft where you can just cut lose and explore. And so far, it is a helluva fun ride.