Never Tell Anyone That You Write One Draft Clean…
But Dean, why do you say that because you teach it here and talk about it all the time??
The reason? This is a writer-focused site at the moment. And writer’s seldom buy my books (except to see how bad it really is because I wrote it in five days while traveling.)
So I am safe. And it is safe here for you to all talk about this stuff in the comments that we have been talking about this last few days. (Comments are still going in the comments sections of the two posts and the comments are wonderful.)
Here, on this site and in workshops, I really want to try to help writers. Kris and I do these workshops I keep talking about because we want to try to tell others what we wished someone would have told us early in our journey.
Honest truth about writing, not myth.
But when out in public, with readers, I suggest you all be a many draft writer. Talk about “your work” and talk about the struggle. And readers will feel justified then in spending that $4.99 or $9.99 for your book.
And for heaven’s sake, never tell them you had fun writing. Play into the myth. Tell them about the struggle. It makes for better press anyway.
You are a writer and as Lawrence Block said, “You tell lies for fun and profit.”
A Very Short Incident…
I once got a rewrite request early on in my career from an editor. Very simple stuff, but the editor had spent a lot of time telling me what she wanted with a long, single-spaced letter. These changes were important to her, clearly.
I did the revisions in a few hours and was about to send it back when Kris stopped me.
Why did Kris stop me? She reminded me of the perception I was dealing with. The editor’s perception of “work” for writers. Editors are just super readers and they have the myths buried even deeper than anyone. (That’s why you never, ever listen to an editor who tries to tell you how to write.)
So I held onto the rewrite and wrote another novel for the next two weeks for another publisher, finished the entire novel, turned it in.
Then I sent in the rewrites I had spent a few hours on for the first book, telling the editor how good the comments were and how I had really “worked” on it.
The editor had to think I had struggled and worked hard on her comments for two full weeks. Only way my rewrite had value. And by waiting the two weeks to send it, that time fit her thinking of how long I should “struggle” over making the book better.
She had no more changes and the book went into print. If Kris hadn’t stopped me, I am sure that editor would have found a ton more wrong with the book because I hadn’t spent “real time” on it.
So, folks, as you climb out of the myths and learn how to actually be a professional fiction writer, an entertainer, remember that all your readers still live in all those myths. So you must play into them.
In a nutshell, that is why when a major writer stands up in front of the press and readers, he flat lies about his process. Hemingway said he wrote 37 drafts and wrote standing up.
Think of yourself as Coke or KFC. Don’t give the secret formula away unless you are in a protected space like this one.
And remember the real secret to being a long-term successful fiction writer… Have fun.