In Which I Break Promises

I’ve made you promises I can’t keep.  I’ve been working at plot development and character analysis and even made my first attempt at the first chapter of Baby Girl Six.  I was so excited by the idea of publishing a monthly chapter.  I thought it would shake me up a little and force me to – I don’t know – learn to writer better fast perhaps?  Here’s the thing (this is where I give you an untidy bunch of roses even though sunflowers are your favorite) I am not a good enough writer to slap a chapter down and publish it without regret.  Remember that time we were up at three in the morning and I was drunk off my ass but you were just sober enough to remember everything I said?  It’s like that.  Once I show you a chapter I won’t be able to scrape it out of your head to make it better.  You will always remember the horrible first draft quality like you remember my most unguarded and ugly confessions made unintentionally under the influence.

What I learned from writing both The Winter Room and Cricket and Grey is that apparently I don’t write great first chapters because in both cases the first chapter was the most rewritten one of all and it was worth the rewrites.  If I was Charles Dickens I might be able to do a serialized book keeping to deadlines and writing chapters that read like 7th drafts… but in spite of some insistent chin hairs attempting to masculate me, I do not have Charles Dickens’ chops.

I was going to try out this serialized book idea using Baby Girl Six because of all the story pitches I came up with that one seemed the most ridiculous and I wasn’t very attached to it.  The more I worked on Six’s character analysis and the more I worked on designing the story and the other characters the more attached I grew.  I sat down this morning to furiously tap out the first damn chapter and post it no matter what.  But I kept thinking about Six and how much I needed time to develop her more and how it will probably take 10 tries at the first chapter to set the mood of the whole book right.  First drafts are crappy affairs.  I don’t want to publish any first drafts.  So I’ve decided I’m not going to.

I know I made promises and when I made them I really meant to keep them.  I understand if you need to rethink our relationship now.  It’s not that I don’t love you – in fact it’s because I love you too much that I need to protect you from my first drafts.

Look, if you can foot the bill I’ll happily go to therapy with you.

Update:  So I tell Philip how I’ve decided that you deserve only the best and how I’m totally chickening out on putting out there something that might be pretty rough and he, naturally, thinks I should do it anyway.  He says that writing chapters and throwing them up on the blog even though they’re only first or second drafts is like throwing them on a big ugly clipboard and I can go back and replace the originals with better versions later like a living morphing story – like a book being written in real time for my readers to see evolving… I hate it when he does that.  He says this will probably make me a better writer faster and is a good exercise.  Which is what I originally thought and was the reason I was going to do it.  Damn him.  I always knew he was trouble!


  1. Karmyn R says:

    I think editing oneself is a HUGE part of being a writer – When I sit down and write my stories – I just write from the heart as it comes out of me. It is the editing which makes it even better.

  2. angelina says:

    I completely agree. It’s how you become very specific in your language and clean out the clutter and really shape the tone. But there is also learning to happen when you force yourself out of your comfort zone to write more quickly AND to have to figure your way out of plot difficulties without the benefit of a complete rewrite. Philip thinks that sharing that process will help me become a better writer. What do you think? Do you think I should write this one offline and not show it until it one day gets published? Or should I go ahead and share this story in this different more raw way? I am also working on rewriting The Winter Room (complete rewrite) that I definitely wouldn’t share online because I intend to get it published.

    What do you think? Also – have you had any chance to work on your writing or is everything too chaotic for you with all the house excitement and sick kids and all? I was thinking about you the other day hoping you were getting to write.

  3. Maybe I’m just being a wuss for you as well but I probably wouldn’t do this to the blog at this point. I’d love to read it as you write it but I really understand your reservations. If you want to do this as an exercise it might be better for your first attempt to be in a slightly more private place that will give you a bit more emotional security.. last thing you need is some random anon coming by and ripping into you just for fun.

    In your shoes I would probably pick some people you know will be appropriate for your needs and do it either as a monthly email or set up a temporary quick and dirty private blog that only those people have access to. The learning is about committing yourself to a timeline and exposing your work before it’s at what you feel is an appropriate level of polished. There is no reason you have to expose yourself to the whole world whilst doing so if it doesn’t sit well with you.

    Kind Regards

  4. Angelina says:

    I’m still considering doing this. You make a lot of good points, Belinda, but part of the exercise is to write on a deadline and let go of some o f the control. I’m intrigued by how writers can write whole novels in serial fashion in monthly publications – no one does this any more but it used to be really popular. I was thinking that it would really stretch and improve my skills to do this. To have it be private or for just a few people would defeat the purpose of the exercise. I think it boils down to a choice of either following through with this project or just writing the novel in the usual way. I practice this kind of letting go with my writing on my blogs. I edit each post before publishing but the process is so fast that there are always errors – but it is a good discipline to push myself to write on Stitch or on this blog and not agonize over everything I write. Technically I CAN go back and republish better versions so if I really feel I need to I can do that.

    But I’m still not sure. I’m having the hardest time getting the first chapter even written. I remember that this is the hardest part of writing every book I write. Once the first chapter is good then the rest flows more easily. So we’ll see. Your point about opening myself up to mean anonymous comments is well taken and that could potentially be trouble.

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