Question from user idontexist4lyfe: “How does it feel to have a completed first draft of your first novel?”
Now that that’s out of the way…
After a year of hard work, and a long break during my last school semester, the first draft of No Place for Rabbits (title tentative) is complete, at a grand total of 77782 words. My first thought after typing that last word was “OH GOD YES”, but that quickly turned into “Now what?” So I decided to look through what I had been working so hard on for the past year, and all I could see was how terrible it is. This feeling has to be normal, right? In Anne Lamott’s book on writing, aptly titled Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, she says “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later… Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”
Bam! There you have it. And I believe it. I can imagine Cormac McCarthy sitting down at his desk, looking at the very first draft of Blood Meridian, and probably thinking it’s absolute shit. By the way, if you want to see what an early version of Blood Meridian looked like, check out THIS article from Slate, which features the first page of an early draft, courtesy of The Cormac McCarthy Papers (Wittliff Collections, Texas State University). Needless to say, the final draft is a definite improvement. Below is the first page from the edition I have:
That said, I’m going to provide to you an excerpt from my own shitty first draft, in hopes that when all is said and done, the writing will be at a level that I can be proud of. Here is the first 333 words of No Place for Rabbits, by me, Dallas Boehm.
Alan Saunders felt like a pervert, like some kind of fowl-voyeur, rubbernecking at this poor pigeon’s most intimate moment. The heavyset bird likely couldn’t see him from her position, but he was there, observing her nervous movements from above. He wondered if God sat around watching people in the shower like this. Cigarette smoke drifted out and away into the humid morning air. Supposedly, there was a norther fast-approaching, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. In South Texas, you quickly learn that you can never trust a weatherman. The bird thrashed its grayish wings in the shallow fountain-water and shook its stout body violently, expelling the excess water outward in every direction. It jerked its avian head in a quick upward motion and took off suddenly, flying past the outer fence of the apartment complex and out of sight.
There was a quick tap on the window behind him. “Are you about done out here?” Valerie Henson’s bulging eyeballs peered out from between the spread-apart blinds.
“Yeah, I’m done, babe. You all set?” He snuffed out his cigarette and exhaled sharply before going inside to greet her.
“You were out there for a long time,” she said, putting her arms around his shoulders and kissing him on the cheek.
“I was waiting for you to get ready, so I decided to come outside and watch the birds for a bit. You know, get some fresh air.”
“Fresh air my ass! You smell like smoke.”
“And you smell like my shampoo.” Alan laughed and brushed past her, walking into the living room. “Hey, Val. How come you’ve been showering over at my house lately?” He reached up and turned off the ceiling-fan light. Stupid thing didn’t work from the light switch, so he had to use the pull-string to turn the light on or off. The fan always turned, even in the off position. He had given up on calling maintenance after the shower started leaking for the third time.