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I must be honest… I’m working with a faulty metaphor.

It’s the whole ‘shitty’ first draft thing. Lamott isn’t the original or only one to say it. Hemingway does, too. “The first draft of anything is shit,” so he says. And then along comes me, thinking I’m fairly clever, calling my first draft a diarrhea draft! What have I done!?

I certainly appreciate the freedom a ‘diarrhea’ draft offers. It helps to know it’s okay if your writing stinks, for now, because it’s not really about writing well. It’s about getting it all out of you. It’s about dumping words and ideas onto the page. Yes, all this about my diarrhea draft has been very relieving.

But from there, all too quickly, the metaphor fails me. You see, I’m a very visual person and I tend to perceive my metaphors quite literally (it’s a lovely oxymoron, isn’t it? to be metaphorically literal?) So as I’m writing away I’m 1) excited that I’m writing away 2) thrilled that I like what I’m writing and 3) bothered at the thought that, in the end, it’s all labelled ‘crap’.

My intent with this first draft, once it’s done, is not to flush it all down the toilet. I want to pull from it all the pieces that are promising… this is where <gag gag and more gagging> the ‘shitty/diarrhea’ draft metaphor explodes (as in, I vomit). <still gagging> I can’t handle the image of me ‘playing with poop’ once this diarrhea draft is done.

So I’m adopting a new metaphor for my current first draft. Thank you, Shannon Hale, you’ve put an end to my over-active gag reflexes.

Shannon Hale QuoteHow lovely!

Now as I shovel, I grow more and more excited. Blueprints and designs for the most amazing sandcastle are forming in my mind. But the best part is the people I imagine living in this castle. That is to say, I’m finding, discovering, understanding my main character. We’ve stumbled upon some remarkable moments and created some beautiful memories together. She and I have aligned.

Here’s a glimpse at the first of my favourite moments with her. Remember, it’s a first draft and I’ve even resisted the urge to edit (repeated words, quirky commas, bumpy bits remain as they are):

My thoughts are interrupted by a pack of dogs howling in the distance. It seems I hear their song often these nights. I try to estimate how far off in the distance they may be. Are they roaming the foothills? Are they across the Jordan? No, not that far. Perhaps by the old altar. I think of them pissing on the Running Maiden and my blood seems to run hot and thick in my veins. They wouldn’t, would they? Surely those creatures would sense the sacredness of that tree. I sit up, agitated with my thoughts and afraid that my blood will congeal if I lie still any longer. My body must move. My mind must find rest. Risking discovery, risking waking Bilshah, I pull last night’s dress over my head and slip out of the tent. I head to the Running Maiden. Something within me wants to know that she is well, undefiled.

When I arrive at the altar I am alone. The Running Maiden whispers in the wind that all has been well. Not wanting to doubt her, but wanting to be sure she has been safe, I sit among her roots which are half exposed above the surface of the earth. I feel up and down their length. The bark is crisp and it rubs against my fingers until they begin to grow numb. Nonetheless, I check over every inch around the circumference of the tree. The earth, the grass, the bark, it’s all dry. No dogs have been here tonight.

Relieved, and somehow settled in my spirit, I lie down, nestled between two long roots that rise on either side of me. I sleep.

(excerpt of a novel-in-progress © 2014 by Kelly Dycavinu)

So what do you think? Am I over-the-top with my metaphors? Do you remember the moment you aligned with a character? Does favourite look weird to you spelled with a ‘u’? (Not to me, I’m Canadian). Are your gag reflexes as sensitive as mine? Your comments are welcome!


I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 5150

Current status: 17,416 words


© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.