I wanted to believe her. But I knew she was wrong. I don’t often say that about Beth, my almost-always-infallible-about-words editor. She has a stellar reputation for being right. I knew from experience. I disagreed with some of those slapped-on-post-it-notes on my first manuscript. She’d let me have my say. But, then, eventually, I would have to admit that she was right about them all. But not this time.
“The first draft is the hardest.” That’s what she said. I agreed that after almost ten years of not writing a word, those first drafts of Annie’s Odyssey were difficult-tooth-pulling agony. But, I knew in my gut that the hardest was yet to come. This first cut was definitely not going to be the deepest.
You see, I wasn’t used to multiple drafts. When I was finishing up my 27-year-quest for a bachelor degree at Trinity University in D.C., I could whip out outstanding, A+ papers in one draft. Research the topic, think about it, spend twelve hours at the office on Saturday and walla it was finished. I liked the efficient beginning…middle…end of the process. It did not prepare me well for book writing.
I suspected that Beth’s words about first drafts were part of the strategy of the Writers’ Support Team to keep my fingers on the keys and words appearing on the page. It worked. So did her complements. I confess to feeling a blush of satisfaction when she told me my five-page first draft of the first story was “good writing”. Memories of those A+ grades.
But it was that word first that was so ominous to me. It implied months, years of work to come. Am I whining? (The cats are keeping silent on this one.) The next draft wouldn’t be so hard, she said. She was wrong. No matter how painful it was for me to write those five pages I knew the next and the next and the next drafts were going to be as or even more difficult then this first.
But to put things into perspective…I remember hearing that Yann Martel was handed back his “finished” manuscript and told to rewrite the whole thing…from the beginning.
…on to Draft Number Four…