In June of 2020, I wrote 10,000 words of this new novel about a young woman who works at a house museum and finds herself under the influence of a charismatic new boss. While she tries to figure out whether she can trust this person, she is also discovering more about the woman who built the house, an eccentric modern architect with an uncovered past.
I had been incubating the idea for over a year and, while I didn’t feel quite ready to begin, I never feel quite ready to begin. I signed up for Jami Attenberg’s 1000 Words of Summer, a two-week challenge to write 1000 words a day. I didn’t hit the mark every day, but I got close. By the end, I had 10,094 words of this new project.
And they were mostly garbage. Like really, really bad. Maybe some of the worst writing I have done as an adult.
I can blame a thousand different things for why I produced bad writing in 2020 (and so far it seems like 2021 is no panacea), but you know what? Sometimes a first draft is just bad. Sometimes you have to get out the garbage words to get to the good ones. As Anne Lamott says in her fantastic book about writing, Bird by Bird,
“For me and most other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”
The shitty first draft leads to the good second draft, which eventually becomes the great third (or fourth or fifth or tenth) draft.
I put this new novel away for many months in order to work on revisions of a different novel with my agent. If an editor likes that one enough to buy it, then I’ll be back in revision land soon enough. Until then, I am excited to dive back into this new project.
I’m starting by cutting most of those 10,000 words. After a six-month break, I just need a fresh start. But I’m still glad I wrote them because they serve as a sort of pre-writing — getting to know the characters by trying out their voices on the page.
Whatever happens next, I’m glad you’re here with me.