24 September 2023

When the first draft is the last

As soon as the prolific fiction writer declared, in effect, “I don’t revise because I write fast yet carefully the first time,” this reader lost interest in anything more from that factory.

When it comes to characters, the first draft is (for authors who aren’t writing about those they've gotten to know over years of relationships) the version in which they still wear nametags and the writer knows as much about them as a spreadsheet shows. Even the blood is scripted.

The writer who stops there doesn’t have the time nor interest in becoming involved. To do that risks throwing a spanner in the works of  productivity. It could change the course of history, force the writer to take a look at what the characters have been committed to. And (horrors!) compel that writer to liberate the script.

Characters (real characters--not elements--characters who don’t recognise a story arc, writing rules, and that invisible set of walls they live betwixt, the “envelope”) who are allowed to be themselves can be shocking to prescriptive writers and editors, a great deal of work, emotionally draining, and terrifying. Writers can find real love, and readers can, too. Single-word definitions of characters and situations are trampled. The story smells like earth after rain. The world of fiction bursts into real, painful, beautiful, worrisome, confusing, maddeningly complex yet clear as water: life.

But, says the writer, the characters are meant to be ciphers. I'm not interested in them. It's the setup and denouement. That's very clever. It fits in the genre, Wank. I'm not talking about you, but these works should be clearly marked.

That's not to say that there aren't masterpieces that come out in one inspired flow. There are times when it happens, that precious channeling. But the more prolific a writer is, the more danger there is that there's no real connection between writer and what's written about. A writer exists to serve the needs of a story, imo, not the other way around.

Now, there are readers who want that first perfect draft only. They don’t wish to read anything that might make them feel, let alone think. They don’t want the involvement either. They just want something soothing to pass the time between commitments or to help them sleep or to half-pretend to be transported to. But not only is there more of that than they could ever read already.
Why read when you can watch?