Thursday, November 20, 2008

don't read this book----yet!

So I finally have a 100% shi^&* first draft!
A friend I spoke with on the phone this morning was shocked I had accomplished the amazing feat of the terrible first draft- or any draft-- because of the nature & consistency of my complaints. That I'm getting nowhere fast. That writing sucks. That I have no discipline and just can't get it together. That nobody will agree to sit down and write my book for me.
But somehow-sometime- amidst my kvetching and canoodling I have managed to come up with some pages. Here and there. Around 150 to be inexact. They lack a consistent narrative drive, lots of threads go untied and I switch frequently between past and present tense. There are 2 or 3 paragraphs I would love to show anyone but all in all it is truly awful. At least it would be if it were a book. But it's not, it's a draft and for that reason I am THRILLED.
It was heartening last Friday night to hear Travis Holland- who just won the VCU first Novelist Award for his book, "The Archivist's Story"- say that he wrote 4 or 5 drafts before striking gold. And I'll never forget Jeannette Walls saying that she wrote the first draft of "The Glass Castle" in 5 weeks and then spent the next 5 YEARS revising it. I was in complete shock at the time and thought she must be an incredibly slow writer (yeah, somebody who covers celebrities for MSNBC would be a slow writer) and that couldn't possibly ever be the case with me. Now I'd be tickled fuscia to think that 5 years was my timeline and the NY Times bestseller list was my destination. Again and again I have to pull my mind out of the gutter of the publishing industry and the end product and whether or not Oprah will still have a book club by the time I'm 40 and just remember to concentrate on my task at hand. Writing. Another draft. Page by page.


  1. That is fantastic, Valley! Bird by bird, baby. Shitty first drafts is actually one of the official Lamott steps!

  2. Congratulations, Valley! This is huge. HUGE. I'm in the VCU MFA program, enrolled in Novel Workshop this semester and next. (You and I spoke on the phone prior to, and met the night of, the First Novelist thingy.) Here's what the instructor emailed to us last June; words that have kept me going:

    "I always get confounded writing my own novels. And I almost always hit the wall around page 80; you probably will too. So here’s yet another thing I’m asking you to do: realize you’re going to get lost, will want to abandon your project, will want to start something new. Even so, I want you to commit to completing the draft of the novel you start, even if it stinks. It’s good for the soul. You’ll have written a novel, the first draft of a novel. You’ll have gone the distance. Something clicks. Trust me."

    Reading your post, it's clear something has, indeed, clicked for you. Yay for you, and good luck with everything that comes next.


  3. Valley that's wonderful, and I am soooo proud of you. I also want to read the darn thing in spite of what you say about it!

  4. Hey Valley! I'm getting published! A publisher in Maryland picked up my collection of essays and it is currently in production! The book is called "3 Buck Naked Commodes and 18 Tales from a Small Town". I'm updating on my blog, Keep in touch!


  5. I think you are a great writer, Valley! I'm sure the novel will be fantastic- I know I look forward to reading it. I am a fairly good writer myself and struggle with a lot of the same issues you write about in your blogs. Good to know I'm not the only one! Thanks for writing.