I Have a Second Rule of Writing!

My first rule was stolen from Bird by Bird, if I’m remembering right, which is just have a shitty first draft. Revel in your first draft’s shittiness. Let it be ridiculous and let stupid things happen and have sentences like “No, wait, that can’t happen, because now she’s dead and we’re only twenty pages into the book. Okay, what if this happens instead?” Like notes to yourself in the body of the text, because it’s just a shitty first draft. The whole goal is just to get the words down and a general shape to the thing.

But last night, I developed a second rule–if you have even a small window of time in which to work on your first draft, even if it’s just twenty minutes, go ahead and put down a few sentences. It’s fine if they suck. This is your shitty first draft. But what if they go someplace interesting? Whoa. Then that’s nice.

So, yes, obviously, I wrote very little last night, but it cleared some things up for me.

I wanted to spend the evening reading Let’s Play White, but I have to tell you that each story is so big, emotionally, even when they’re short, that I had to read a story, stop, take some time to process it, and then read the next. They’re incredibly scary, but what’s weird is that, I realize, when I read, say, Stephen King, the terror is all in my upper body–I feel it physically in my head and shoulders. But with Burke, I’m feeling it all in the pit of my stomach.

As a writer, I’m trying to figure out why it resonates so differently for me–as more lingering dread than outright horror–because it’s really effective. You shut a Stephen King book and you rush past your closet door and then you laugh at yourself for being silly. But I’m going to give this book to the Professor, just because I want someone to talk about it with.

My favorite story so far is “I Make People Do Bad Things,” which is kind of about the dawning horror of realizing that, if someone will do something with you, they’ll do it to you, which is my favorite and least-favorite life lesson. But really nicely done and not about sexual infidelity, though that’s usually how you see that lesson learned.