I've been in a different writing mode this week, and it's been a rather nice experience. I mentioned that for my application to Lit Camp, I needed to get my first chapter into shape, so I started by printing it out and reading it over.
That part of the experience wasn't so nice. The last time I worked on the first chapter was a year and a half ago, when I had progressed a year and a half less far in my development as a writer. Compared to what I'm writing now, I didn't think the chapter was very good. To be honest, I hated it so much that by the end I wasn't even reading all the words because I was so eager to be finished.
I knew this problem would exist, and I've written about it before. There's never consistency between the beginning and end of a draft on any lengthy pass. My best work is whatever I wrote most recently, but I'm not going to submit a chapter from the middle of the novel. Especially because my novel has a damn fine opening -- except that it was suffering from painfully awkward sentences and stretches of utterly boring dialogue.
So I took up my pen and started attacking the pages. I can't really say why this was a paper-and-pen task when I do most of my work on the computer, but it was. (Maybe I'll come up with some musings on this later.) I was ruthless, and I was working hard, and it was difficult, slow work, but I was making serious improvements. And then suddenly it was four hours later. The next day I continued where I left off, and same thing: I was shocked to find four hours had passed.
I'd love to tell you that every day I write for four hours straight without succumbing to any distractions, but that would be a great big lie. You might speculate that since I've been mostly working on paper, I couldn't as easily get lost in online distractions, but I don't think that's the main reason this was different. I was just highly focused in a way I haven't been in a while, and maybe it's due to the different nature of the task, or maybe it's simply that it's a different task and I've been desperate for a change.
If this level of editing is always going to be this engrossing and satisfying, I'd love to keep going with the next chapter and the next. Alas, I need to get back to the rewriting I've been doing and see it through to the end of the story. But I will get there. And then I guess I can look forward to this strange reward of crossing things out and filling margins with my indecipherable scrawl.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Kathy Crowley at Beyond the Margins talks about why The Novel with Many Narrators is a Multiheaded Beast: "More narrators means more work. No question. You need to know each of your narrators very well. Think out each of their back stories, mannerisms, quirks, fears. Know everything about how each one views the world, looks, moves, ties shoe laces."