I once watched an episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ where the characters decided to leave a sticky problem for ‘future us’ to solve. I think this applies to writing too. When you’re haring down the slalom of a first draft, it’s all too easy just to write FIGHT SCENE HERE or A GETS TO THE HOUSE SOMEHOW….DON’T KNOW….and then carry on round it to the lovely exciting bits. Often, this is the best way to get the end (which you must do. You absolutely must get to the end of your first book before you can do anything). I’m very guilty of being lazy on first drafts. I rarely write in a straight line, but rather do all the easy scenes first, the ones that come to me. Then I make long straggly lists of extra ones that need to go in – along the lines of ‘need scene to show X fancies Y’, ‘more scenes where father does something’, ‘hint at Mary doing something evil’ and so on. Then I read, make notes, and do it again. And again. You get the picture.
This isn’t being very kind to future me, so perhaps I should stop being so lazy? Especially since past me can be quite thoughtful, actually. I’m writing my third book at the moment, although I get distracted and cheat on it with my fourth, because I’m in the exciting ‘Oh my God it’s amazing’ stage with the story. You know, before you start to run into problems like having a plot or dialogue or finding names for the characters. I found an old notebook the other day, and to my surprise I had already written large parts of Book 3. I have no memory of this. I knew I’d written a few scenes over the years, but we’re talking tens of thousands of words here. What a gift from past me! Interestingly (and annoyingly) I had already re-written some of the scenes, I suppose because they are the easy ones, the ones I had in my head and didn’t have to struggle for. It seems past me and present me would take a fairly similar approach to the scene, apart from a few small details changing such as surnames.
Past me was good. Past me wrote all this, by the looks of it, in 2009, when I was wrestling, I thought with my beast of a first novel. So in the spirit of friendliness I will try not to be lazy with Book 3 and will aim to get stuck into the tough passages instead of the lovely ones, and I’ll keep noting down the ideas I get for other books and stories along the way. Future me will be very pleased, although may with that current me did not have such indecipherable handwriting. To which I will say, stop being so ungrateful, dude.
To be kind to future me, I will:
Face the difficult bits head on.
Make copious notes on all the ideas I get, because I most definitely will not remember them even tomorrow, never mind in two years’ time.
Work very, very hard to get better at my writing, through constant feedback, study, and practice. Past me was very bad and despite a life-long dream to be a writer, did not get properly started until 2009. Imagine how good I could be now if it wasn’t for all the laziness and fear!
Come up with some kind of system for recording ideas instead of having to read through a hundred tatty notebooks when I come to write the book (except I won’t do this because I know now it’s just too much like hard work. Sorry, future me).
Try to write more neatly instead of in the fevered scrawl I usually use when the ideas are pumping. Think automatic writing done by disembodied hand in bad Gothic novel.