When I look at my kitchen after dinner–the pots and spoons, knives and plates, measuring cups and spatulas, all lining my countertop and falling off into the sink–I think “first draft.” It takes me a while to scrape off the food into the compost bin and to rinse off all the dishes and utensils but finally, after a good deal of parsing the mess from the non-mess and then wiping down the counter, my kitchen looks tidy, is back to its original organized state and I can take a deep breath in. It’s done. And, isn’t it appropriate that I’m writing this article with a kitchen analogy while editing the final book in the Bobby’s Diner Series entitled SACRIFICE AT SEA?
That’s what a first draft of a novel looks like to me, a messy kitchen—a bunch of beautiful things that, when out of order, look terrible and need polishing. It’s the same with writing. You know a great story is underneath the muddle and after a little scraping, wiping and cleaning, it will look organized. It will look clean.
For my latest release, HOTTER THAN HELEN (the number two book in the Bobby’s Diner series), I had help with cleaning my novel. I would like to call her a maid but I don’t think my editor would appreciate that. But, boy oh boy, did she ever work that kitchen! When she finished, she sent me the story with all her comments and editions in tow. Together we re-organized the mess.
As with any job, it’s always good to have help. My husband, Bob, often says, “Many hands make light work.” Writing the novel is no different, especially at the end. We not only ultimately need a talented editor but we also need several readers and one (or more) great proofreaders. Each become an important cog in the end result of a clean book. The readers will tell you what they like and what they don’t like about your book. Readers also catch a myriad of errors, not simply typos but grammatical errors, timing errors and omission errors. Proofreaders will concentrate on the content within the story and find all the silly mistakes we writers are prone to make, such as, writing “to” instead of “too” or “here” instead of “hear.” Homonyms are some of my worst kinds of errors. Proofreaders will catch these. But, you need more than one to catch most of them and you will never catch all of them. In fact, I caught one last year while reading Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” Which proves, even the most accomplished editors at the most renowned publishing houses can’t catch all the mistakes we writers will make. Does that bother me? No more than being human bothers me.
So you know, here’s what it’s like around my house. Every day I write. Every day I cook. Every day I edit. Every day I clean my kitchen. If you’re starting to see a lack of glamour in the writing biz, then bully for you. It’s all work, all of the time. Then, after working you have to shop, vacuum the floors and cook dinner… again!
I have found I’m getting up earlier and earlier simply to get everything done. Writing comes first. After knocking out a couple thousand words, I check my email, check Facebook and then I check any other pressing business that needs attention. Right after, I go back to my writing and look at that first draft mess. I pull out my writing cleaning bucket—my scissors, my eraser and my polish and scour through my first draft writing.
Now, ask me if I would have it any other way. My answer is a resounding “No!” I love my job. I love being in love with a job! So, excuse me a sec, but I have to leave before my ink dries. As Mother once said, “It’s so much harder to scrub out stains than to simply wipe off a spill.”
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