I admire those writers who can sit down and plot out an entire novel in advance. I’ve never experienced it, but I imagine all the gut-wrenching, hair tearing uncertainty coming at that stage and the actual writing being a breeze. Once you’ve got the outline done, you sit down to write it. Easy, breezy, beautiful. Okay, so that’s the Cover Girl motto, but you can see how it might apply.
Me, I have to write to find out where I’m going. I can’t come to know the characters until I write them out and wrestle with their voices and their world views. Take my current novel (please!). I keep learning things about my heroine and her BFF (until death do they part) that are complete game-changers. I suspect that this is going to be a novel that I write, and then rewrite to add in all the twists I learned about only later, and then repeat ad infinitum until it all flows and the psychology of it is completely dead on. Emphasis on the dead.
This was the very hardest thing for me to learn as a writer. I’m a serious Type A personality, which makes me extremely demanding of myself. My early efforts at writing were painful, because I couldn’t allow myself to get things wrong, and I couldn’t always be right. (To my authors and husband: please ignore. I’m utterly infallible, of course. What ever gave you the impression that I might be human?) Giving myself permission to get it down and then get it right, which is my current mantra, was both freeing and terrifying. Doing it that way meant I might actually be (*gasp*) wrong. False starts, scenes that go nowhere, dialogue that doesn’t truly further the plot, places where the tension flags…it’s all there. Everyone goes through it. No one’s first draft is perfect. I know one or two authors who get awfully close, and I’d probably have to hate them if I didn’t love them so much. But the truth is, most of us agonize and go through draft after draft. Plotters too, I have it on good authority, because knowing what happens isn’t the same as knowing how it all happens, and sometimes the best-laid plans go awry.
I suppose what I’m trying to impart today is that imperfection isn’t the end of the world…or the end of the road. Sometimes you agonize a little more on the front end of the project (plotters), sometimes on the back end (pantsers), but it’s always a process. There’s always refinement and revision, sometimes whole scale cutting or rewriting.
If it doesn’t hurt, then you’re not doing it right.