A Second Draft and a Quote from Anne Lamott

“I had a friend named Al who every so often took other people’s cats to the pound to be put down, because his friends couldn’t bear to do it themselves. They were cats who were, for one reason or another, like sickness or incontinence, a blight on the landscape. He didn’t care one way or the other about cats.”

Anne Lamott suggests finding someone like Al to do the dirty work of editing your manuscripts–particularly your plot. I like this idea. I give my drafts to Sarah and for a number of reasons. She knows me best–often much better than I know myself. Which means she knows when I defraud the stories or the characters. She knows when I’m just being lazy. And because we’ve lived together for a while now, we’ve come to terms with bringing those things into the open and letting them air out, hoping that the air will fix them. I also let her read initial drafts because she loves me and she’s the kindest person I’ve ever met. Also: Because she lives with me, she deals with the days that I disappear into fiction. This isn’t just when I’m writing; this is any time I’m swallowed by a story or a character or a problem within my fictional world. Which means sometimes she lives with a stranger for days at a time. And I’m thankful for her giving me the space to grind my brain gears until I figure it out. And when I think I’ve figured it out, then I give the draft to her and she lets me know if I actually figured it out or not.

All this to say that I finished the second draft of this novel. The first draft was 30k words, with giant chasms of missing information. The second draft is 45k words, will smaller breaks in the narrative and characters that sometimes turn sideways and disappear. I am in the midst of a slow sludge toward finished. And then I am sure that I’ll be miserable with the product. But I will be done, which is more than I can say about most things.

Post script: It has taken me two years of on-and-off writing (read: bad writing habits/life in general) to finish this draft. It’s really the first draft that I’ve let Sarah read all the way through. So, she’s been waiting a while. Now that she has this draft, I ask her every night if she’s read it yet. My wonderful wife, who takes care of our kids while I teach/write, who works her new job at a preschool with more kids, who I demand to spend time with me in the evenings–I expect her to read this draft in days. And when she hands it back to me, it may well be months before she gets another draft. Something about this isn’t fair. If you don’t live with a writer, count your blessings.

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