Hello, my name is Victoria Elizabeth Schwab, and I love words.
Sometimes, too much.
When I first drafted NW, I got so caught up in the wording that I would sometimes keep a scene, even if it wasn’t the strongest possible scenario, because I was attached to the way it was written. This is dangerous. Authors tell us to always push ourselves, to make it harder, to make it better, and I thought I was making it better. Better-written. All the while, though, I was forcing plot to take a backseat to poetry.
Let me tell you what happened. My editor got her hands on it. It went something like this:
Editor of Awesome: We LOVE your writing.
V: I’m so glad to hear that!
EoA: But what you have here…it’s a lot of good writing, but not enough PLOT.
V: Plot? What’s that you speak of?
EoA: You know…that thing that you write ABOUT.
V: *blank stare*
EoA: Yeah, exactly.
So I spent ten months revising with my editor, systematically rewriting NW until it had both my poetry and the plot to go with it.
I am drafting a new book.
And something has shifted in me. I’m writing in order. I’m planning ahead (I know, I’m scaring myself). But most of all, I’m drafting with an eye for plot. I’m focusing on WHAT is happening first, and the HOW it’s worded second. My voice will always be there, even in the early drafts, but by forcing myself to write this way, I give myself permission to reassess, to shift, and sometimes, most importantly, to delete.
Now, this is not me giving myself permission to write SFDs. I personally don’t believe in an SFD (Sh*tty First Draft) because I edit as I go and the fact is that I need to be excited about the wording to push through. But I’m slowly learning, thanks to the very long journey of NW, to prioritize.
I will never be able to disregard the WAY something is said in the interest of what is said, because the fact is I DO love words. But, in the early stages of a book—the first draft—I’m learning to put plot first. And in so doing, I’m giving myself permission to DO BETTER. Along the way I stop and wonder (all right, almost every chapter I stop and wonder) “Is this the best I can do?”
Sometimes the answer is “Yes.” Sometimes the answer is “For right now.” And sometimes the answer, little as I like to hear it, is “NO.” I’ve chopped out entire scenes, diced up dialogue, tightened and stitched. I am a completely different beast from the one I was when I first wrote NW. And I’m excited by it*. I’m finding that balance between poetry and plot.
And this is just the first draft.
*Let it be noted that this is NOT without its angst. I go through short spasms of OH GOD THIS WILL NEVER BE RIGHT. It will never have the right pace. It will never have the right tone, etc. etc. But those are the growing pains of a draft. No matter how you write, they find their way in. Those you have to deal with, along with doubt monsters and all other little beasts that try to drag you down. I recommend a diet coke, a cookie, and a CP who will tell you to WALK AWAY.