In Which We Make Mistakes

WRITING 02A couple of days ago I got an email from Rich Horton, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, pointing out that I’d made a slight error in a previous post when I said it was the first time I’d made it into one of his year’s best compilations. Quite true. I did have stories in his 2005 and 2007 books, but in my defense I’ll say that I wasn’t completely wrong, either. This is the first time I’ve been included in one of his combined sf & fantasy editions, since for many years the fantasy and sf volumes were separate. The two previous times I’d been reprinted by Rich were in his exclusively fantasy volumes. Yet I did misspeak (mistype?) and Rich was right to bring that to my attention.

Just as it was right for the reader yesterday to point out I’d included a physical impossibility in one of my scenes from Power’s Shadow. That’s also the reason I was hesitant about this experiment in the first place. See, this is the first time I’ve let anyone other than First Reader see one of my rough drafts, and there are good and solid reasons for that. What the reader has a right to expect when they pick up one of my books is that I’m not going to waste their time with sloppy work. Yet here’s the thing—this is a first draft. Almost by definition it’s going to be a little ragged around the edges. First drafts are the perfect place for mistakes, and don’t they know it. They show up and settle in with deep sighs of contentment. First drafts are made for them. Or as I’ve pointed out in the writer’s groups I’ve belonged to and elsewhere when a colleague was complaining that they get bogged down in this or that piece of minutiae when trying to get a project done, here is your mantra:

“It is not the job of a first draft to be perfect. It is the job of a first draft to get DONE.”

That doesn’t mean you don’t do your best when you’re banging through a first draft. Of course you do. However, “perfect,” if it ever comes, will come later or not at all. But, if we do our jobs, we’ll be a lot closer than we were before the book becomes, you know, an actual book. I realize that, at this point, it’s almost as risky as watching sausage getting made, assuming you liked sausage before you did, in fact, saw it getting made. There’s stuff going on in a first draft that readers were not meant to see, not to mention stuff going on that the writer—in this case me—also didn’t see. That’s what second and third and…well, however many drafts it needs, are for.

Of course, feel free to point it out when I get something wrong. If you’re right it’s likely to save me time in the rewrite. But don’t feel obligated. Nor will I assume there’s no problem if no one says anything. I know there are problems. Some I see already, some I don’t, but it’s my mess and I’ll fix it. That’s my job. What you’re reading here, assuming you are, isn’t actually a book. It’s the foundation and framing of a book. One day, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, it will be a book.

Right now, it’s something closer to raw meat.



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