Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rough Drafts, Colonoscopies, and E-Juice

Rough drafts and colonoscopies have a lot in common.  Neither is fun to watch, I'm thinking.  Both are messy and sometimes uncomfortable (it's called a rough draft for a reason).

One involves a professional (a doctor) looking into the guts of your body, the other involves a professional (yourself at your professional best, anyway) looking into the guts of your story.  The doctor has the best equipment and an assistant, along with other medical help available as needed.  For your rough draft you probably have a fine computer, and maybe an assistant in the form of a reader or critique partner / group.  If needed, there's always help on the Internet.

Both the writing and the probing involve "getting it all out."  When you have a colonoscopy they give you some concoction to drink to help get things moving.  I call it eliminator juice, or e-juice for short.  It is mighty effective.  For better or worse, there's no equivalent to e-juice for writing rough drafts.  Assuming the goal of a rough draft is simply to get the story (in very rough form) into the computer, what you  really want is a sort of verbal diarrhea;  you want a flood of words.  Some people may take a drink to become talkative (or maybe a whole lot of drinks), but that kind of drinking won't cut it.  Inducing verbal diarrhea centered on our story is not as simple as drinking 8 oz of e-juice every 20 minutes till the unstoppable flow is loosed.

I find that two things slow my rough draft:  lack of knowing where the story goes next, and premature editing.  Where the story goes next always comes to me in good time, but the premature editing... sheesh!  I have a lot of trouble keeping myself from editing as I write my rough draft.  Part of me wants even this first stab at the story to be perfect, to flow on the page, to have sharp and witty dialog.  It's a very strong part of me.  I blame this tendency on my programming background -- if it's going into the computer it ought to be as right as it can be the first time.  If I had some writing e-juice to drink, it would make this editor part of me take a vacation for the duration.  But I don't have any of that kind of juice.

Except I've found that helps is to take my eyeglasses off (my uncorrected vision is 20/200 in my good eye), and zoom in on my text.  I can generally tell if I am on the line I'm supposed to be, and I can see that I'm typing, but it's a struggle to read what's on the screen.  My editor doesn't stand much of a chance because it has to work from memory -- there's no fine-tuning happening on the screen where otherwise it would be a persistent time-waster for me.  So while I don't have an e-juice suitable for writing a rough draft, I have a kind of helpful half-blindness that can at least eliminate a major restriction I'd otherwise place on the stream of words.

Do you face any particular problem with writing a rough draft?  Have you found any technique(s) for dealing with it?


  1. Interesting analogy, dear. If I could create an e-juice that let your words flow (and nothing else), I would. I know you got them in you, and it's time to let them out!

  2. I wonder if part of the problem you're having lies in your analogy. See, perhaps you shouldn't think of your first draft as "looking into the guts of your story". When you look at the guts, that's when you edit. If you want to basically not edit on the rough draft (I manage to only do a little proof reading, not true editing) then don't think of it as looking at the guts. Perhaps just think of it as getting the poo out first. Just like a colonoscopy, the poo has to come out before you can look at the guts.

  3. Thank you, dear Jojo -- I know you would if you could.

    Well said, Tbiz. How did you get so smart, anyway?

  4. Wow!
    Deja vu! I just did a post very similar to this (but without the colonoscopy reference). I hate rough drafts. I posted about my write/revise, write/revise, write/revise technique of writing.

    With regard to e-juice, I've heard writers refer to alcohol as their e-juice, a glass of wine to loosen the muse. Doesn't work for me though.