posted by Doranna Durgin

Yup, I'm back to it. Scent of Danger is back in progress, and once again I'm shifting into first draft gear. Because for me, first draft creates a different world. I love revising, I get a kick out of the production stages, I lo-oove the part where the book shows up on the shelves...but first draft, that's what it's all about.

The thing about first draft, though...it takes over your life. I've come to think of the moments between initial drafting as that time that I poke my head out into the world, dust off the surfaces in my office, dig down through the geological layers on my desk, and in general touch base with reality. Depending on circumstances, this time can be as short as several days or last as long as a couple of months. (When it's a couple of months, I've usually fit in several sessions of first drafting sample chapters, but those are so short and intense as to be different experiences altogether.)

During revising, it's somehow easier to skip in and out of the world of my book; I'm weaving and reweaving what's already done, not spinning it from thoughts that I'm carding and sorting at the same time. I don't have to hold the big picture in my head all at once; it's been done and recorded. I'm relaxed, and more flexible about what happens during my day. I can interrupt myself for a watercooler conversation; I can take care of the every day details of life.

With first draft, though, it's up to my muse to hold the whole book in my head at once. The characters, their motivation, their stage of growth in the book, the season, the setting...whatever else is going on in my life, those pieces have to live in the background, humming on idle when necessary and ready to go when the writing time comes. On top of that there's another layer, the one that's always working the next scene--what do I want to accomplish, and how am I going to do it, and while I'm at it just how can I make life even more difficult for my characters while I'm at it?

And on top of that there's another layer--the one that works a scene or two ahead and keeps the current scenes always building in the right direction.

So perhaps it's explicable that I tend to lose track of the real world when I'm writing first draft. Oh, just the little pieces, like how long has it been since I saw the dentist and how many magazines are piled up on the kitchen table and oops, whose birthday did I miss not because I didn't know that person had a birthday on that date, but because I had no idea it was that date? It's probably obvious why I go around with notes scribbled all over my hand (no doubt it would be both hands if I was any good at writing with my left), often have a dazed expression, and sit off by myself at social functions, my expression glazed over and my inner muse hard at work. Or why without fail, those who interrupt first draft composition with phone calls say, "Oh, gosh, are you all right? Did I wake you?"

No, no. Everything's fine. I was just off in another world, and have to travel quite some distance to get back to the place where I can talk to you. It takes a few moments, that's all.

Those who dread seeing me like this don't stay in my life long. Those who get a kick out of it are keepers. And you'd think with all the dazed and glazed and oops that I might dread first draft myself. But oooh, no. These are my people and places to explore, my adventures in which to wallow. They draw me in, and challenge me to get them right. First draft is my world...and I welcome me to it!

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