It comes in fits and bursts, inspiration does, in sudden sprints interspersed by slow slogs. One moment you’re hammering out a scene, delighted and thrilled with how easy it’s pouring out, the next you’re dredging it out like some car being towed out of a lake, 50 years sunk and emerging painfully chain link by muddy chain link.
What’s sad is that in the end, I don’t think you can tell the difference between the parts that were easy to write or the parts that proved difficult and slow. My creative writing teacher back in college said as much, and at the time I was outraged. How can the stuff that sparkles and shines like the purest of gold be indistinguishable from the stuff you choke up piece by piece? But it’s true. Were I to go back to my first novels, I doubt I would be able to tell the difference myself.
Oh, you can remember the absolute peaks, the few moments that were a revelation and a joy to write, the culmination of an epic scene or a particularly witty exchange. But that amounts to about 5% of the novel. The other 95% ends up looking like part of one seamless whole. Which is as good, I suppose, as it is bad.
Right now I’m slogging. A quick burst yesterday brought me to the halfway mark of Chapter 5, and it took me awhile to fumble my way today to the chapter’s end. Doubts assailed me: had I written too much consecutive action? Had I skimped on description? Was my protagonist still somebody readers would care about after the latest turn of events? Am I leaving out too much context for fear of indulging in gross exposition? How much of the richness that I’ve created is missing thus far, leaving the few points I have drawn to light seemingly random and unconnected?
First draft blues, ladies and gentlemen, first draft blues. The other thing to do is to keep on staggering forward. Like a drunk man leaving a bar there can be no way but on and on until you get home. Pause to pat your pockets, wonder where your wallet is, if you paid the bartender, if you’re on the right street, and odds are you’ll spend the rest of the night stumbling lost, pausing in alleyways to watch trashcans on fire and entering porn stores only to get chased out by wizened old men. A strange and bizarre fate indeed.
So like the fairies say: stay on the path, and don’t stray. Funny, same thing goes when you’re on the moors and trying to avoid werewolves.
I’m going to go check on the split pea soup.