The Space Between Drafts

After Writers of the Future I came home fired up to write The Book–a novel that I’ve been noodling around for quite some time that’s set in the same world as my Golden Pen winner, “Acquisition.” The Book was ready to go. The Book demanded my time, my blood, every ounce of my mental fortitude. I gave myself until July 4th, 2017 to finish the first draft.

I totally did it.

Happy dance! Holy mackerel, ya’ll, I was over the moon. I celebrated by jumping right into a LitReactor course with Gemma Files, one of my all-time faves, and had a blast working on short fiction.

Meanwhile, Jaime read The Book . . . and pronounced it GRIM. Pessimistic. Depressing.

But how? I mean, I knew it was DARK and it was supposed to be SCARY, but–

The look on her face. I had to ask.

“Well, it’s not scary. Not really. There’s some messed up stuff, but it isn’t–”

Now, Jake-of-the-Past would’ve run away just then. Covered my ears, “lalalalalalalala,” run as far and as fast as I could go. But new Jake. Golden Pen Jake. Confident Jake, he just nodded. Didn’t even have to read it to know she was probably right. (I DID read it, and yeah, she was dead-on.)

Pessimistic? Depressing? Is that what I want to put into the world?

I read a lot of dark stories, and yeah, quite of few of them can be called depressing, but if they’re beautifully written then it’s the experience of the story. It’s worth the cost to my psyche. A short story can be read in a sitting, and when its done I can set it aside and go hang with my kid and snap out of it. But a book–The Book–is something I have to spend more time with. I’ve got to live it, or at very least give it life. It’s my responsibility. My job to make it good.

I wanted to write something entertaining. Dark, yes. But fun. Escapism, man. Fun.

So, out came the knives. Jaime and I worked to find the story, paying particular attention to the chapters of The Book that matched the tone I was striving for. There were a few, too. Fun bits. Scary bits. So we analyzed those. Unpacked them. And instead of lamenting the loss of three months work I decided to look at it like this:

They’re only words, man.

I’ve hacked out a bunch of The Book already, and the stuff I’m adding back in is making me so happy. Jaime’s involvement is a little more hand’s-on with this draft, and we’re talking about plot points and character motivations and she’s asking questions like: “Where’s the fun? Can we make this more exciting? More interesting? Scarier?”

I guess what I’m saying is that everyone should have a Jaime help them with the second draft.

The rest of the summer’s going to be busy working on this thing, but I’m having so much fun that it doesn’t feel like work, y’know? And if I get to the end of this draft and it’s too goofy or whatever, then draft 3 will be better and draft 4 will be better than 3. This is how I write, and I love it. Infused with joy, man. Even when people are getting their souls ripped out and their fingers cut off.

Big time fun!

Also, I’m going to be at NECRONOMICON PROVIDENCE in August! I get in Thursday evening and leave Sunday afternoon. If you happen to be there, let me know! We can high five!

Gotta get back to it, now. Be good. Infuse your stories with joy. Love what you do.

JM

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