Philosophy of Writing – 19 – Drafting

Posted on April 10, 2013 by


HARVEST by Sam Wolfe Connelly, 2012, graphite/carbon

HARVEST by Sam Wolfe Connelly, 2012, graphite/carbon

I’m on lorazepam and I’m listening to Liz Phair.

In a few hours I have an important phone call to make. I want to use that intermediate time to write. Drafting is a sumbitch.

How to Draft
Make the decision frequently enough to write some words on the same topic, one word after the other.


I. — Make the decision

  1. Do you feel like writing today? [YES] go to (7) ; [NO] go to (2)
  2. But you want stuff to be written, even though you don’t feel like writing it. [YES] go to (3); [NO] go to (6)
  3. Why? [BECAUSE I AM A WRITER] go to (4) ; [I’LL GET INTO IT IF I JUST START] go to (7) ; [I OWE IT TO THE WORLD] go to (5); [ART IS PAIN] go to (5)
  4. Are you going to write even though you don’t feel like it? [YES] go to (7); [NO] go to 6;
  5. You’re selling snake oil. You want to be admired. Carry on as normal because there’s nothing I can do to help you.
  6. Enter your existing work in a competition. Query. Find out how your finished projects will be read by giving them to beta readers or critique partners or taking part in workshops. If you haven’t written a new word of fiction in more than three months, go to (5)
  7. Why aren’t you writing then? [I’M GOING RIGHT NOW] go to your manuscript; [IN A MINUTE] go to (6)


II. — Staring at the manuscript

What now?

  • edit off the end of the page — wherein I edit constructively, to complete the structure of a paragraph and then to balance a chapter
  • that one time I started a new novel by typing with my eyes closed
  • whine at the collected forces of the internet until I’m bored of being needy and have to leave to preserve my dignity but usually end up watching Hoarders, choose again
  • open an unfinished manuscript, sigh, write imagery like grocery lists, get into what I’m doing just in time to be interrupted
  • reach over the cat to type, put my face in the cat, pick up the cat, go off to bed, wake up, choose again
  • word sprints, job well done after 600 words, cup of tea
  • alignment of quanta, happy plus received praise plus clean house plus interesting concept/imagery, 48 hours feverish activity, indignant immune system buggers off, headcold or sinus headache


III. — One Word After Another

Between words and the manuscript, one after the other doesn’t matter. Gold threads attach to words and along phrases. When you tug a page, another comes with it. A structure develops between words.

Mark out a section of brain-space–a hollow box–and put your manuscript pages in it. As you draft, imagine the gold threads like spiderwebs that come up from words and link themselves backwards into the words that already exist, or forwards in anticipation of things unwritten.

I manage this meta-structure as I go along: every few sentences, I tug and see which gold threads are taut. You might wish to let them develop organically and then come back afterwards to snip and retie them properly.