by Mike Crawmer
Looking back on it now, writing the first draft of my mystery seems like purgatory, albeit a purgatory of my own making. It took me way too long to get to the point where I felt I had written all that needed to be written and I could type that last period on that last sentence in that last paragraph. Done, at last.
Now, for the rewrite, the next daunting step in the creative process, but one that I looked forward to--really. At the office I rework, rewrite and sometimes re-imagine others’ writing. How much more satisfying the editing experience will be when rewriting my own WIP. Now I can fix the contradictions, repair POV problems, and figure out what to do with that subplot that, so important in chapter four, peters out in chapter ten. Rewriting will be challenging and, yes, fun. But I’m still in chapter one when I hit a dead end. One sentence refuses to be fixed.
“Andre’s words echoed throughout the hall” seems, at first glance, to be just fine. There’s the requisite subject and verb, and a hint of the setting. But, on second look, “hall” won’t work. You see, Andre is speaking inside a vast, empty stable. For the average reader, “hall” conjures up an office building, a hospital, a school, maybe even a Southern plantation house. Not a stable.
Okay, let’s see how I can fix this. I write, “echoed through the stable,” but I’ve already established the setting. To write “stable” again would be repetitious and--horrors!--unimaginative. How about “room”? It is a room, but, oh, how bland! “Space” then? Nope. Sounds like something an interior decorator would say. Hey, what about “interior”? But “interior,” besides being about as unspecific as you can get, suffers the same affliction as “room”—it’s boring.
Figuratively tossing my hands up in the air, I look at the entire sentence rather than focusing on one frustratingly wrong word. “Andre’s words” has to stay, but what about replacing “echo”? Maybe Andre’s words could “bounce off the stable’s musty walls” or “fall with a thud amid the empty straw-filled stalls”?
I look at all the options. Hall. Walls. Stalls. Is there a pattern here? I’m really stuck, aren’t I? And now I’ve gone from echoing to bouncing to thudding, and I’m no happier than I was when I first realized “hall” wouldn’t work. Ten minutes wasted and I still have 68,346 words to go.
At this pace, “WIP” will go from shorthand when referring to the novel underway to the very title of the work itself. And I thought writing the first draft was a chore!