First drafts are funny things. Writing them is an exercise in discipline, both in what we write and what we don’t write.
The discipline around what we write is probably more obvious. I don’t think I need to say, a writer doesn’t have a story to edit or submit until they at least get a first draft done. This can be a long, tedious process. Think about it. Suppose you are writing a story which is projected to be complete at, say, 80,000 words. If you set yourself a goal of writing 1,000 words per day, that is still 80 days to complete the first draft. (Not including the occasional day off.) If you write 1,000 words a day before or after work and manage to do it for six days each week, the duration is still over three months. Three months of forcing yourself to sit in a chair, stair at a blank screen, and figure out what comes next. This takes discipline.
Ironically, what we force ourselves NOT to do while writing that first draft can also require discipline. I find this falls into two major categories. First, it is tempting to waste time agonizing over the exact, perfect words to make each sentence sparkle. It takes discipline to remember this is only a first draft; the sparkle will be unearthed later during the cutting and shaping of revisions. The second category includes those things we recognize need fixing in the words we already wrote. Again, the reminder is: this is only the first draft.
I’ll give you some examples. I am nearly done with the first draft of the next story in my Colorado Wildflowers historical romance series. Last week, I thought I could finish it by the end of June. However, my discipline to stay in the chair lagged a bit earlier this week, and I'm not as far along as I had hoped. I’m still close to typing “The End,” but it won’t be tomorrow.
I also have examples for the second category. While I was writing the first quarter of the book, I felt the pace was too slow. I wanted to stop and cut out chunks of it. I had to force myself to do nothing until the draft is done and I can perform the first read-through of the entire story. Perhaps I was correct and I end up slashing entire scenes. Or perhaps it is fine as is. Sometimes it's hard to know when only viewing a small part of the whole.
My second example caught my eye a few days ago. I have a few short scenes toward the end of the first draft which are in reality probably only snippets of a scene. At some point, I may decide to expand the scenes, or perhaps I will merge two or more into one scene. Again, it’s too soon to make that call. I reminded myself to maintain my first draft discipline and leave them as is for now. The first read through will tell me how to handle them.
It all comes down to discipline. First, maintaining the will to get words onto a blank page, and then finding the will to leave those words alone, once written, until reaching “The End” on the last page. But the discipline pays off when we are able to view what we created.
I spent some time poking around home rental websites the other day. Since I was curious and wanted to compare the sites, it provided a good excuse to look at places to rent in Scotland. Not because I am planning a visit there any time soon, but because I wish I were planning a visit.
I’m rather glad I looked. I was astounded to see lovely cottages available for less than $100/day, and nice flats in Edinburgh for very little more.
It started the wheels in my brain turning. How wonderful it would be to spend a week or two in one of those homes, getting to know that little corner of Scotland. The one other time I was there was as part of a group tour. A group tour has its benefits, but renting a home would allow a person not only to relax and breathe, but to perhaps get to know a few local people. And for me, perhaps get to know a little of the local history.
So, I’ll add this to my bucket list. Someday, we’ll rent a house in Scotland, or maybe even Wales. If I’m feeling gutsy, I may even learn to drive on the other side of the road. Either way, I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than to spend time in a region with breathtaking scenery, and so much history it permeates the earth beneath my feet.
Scotland and Wales are definitely on my list of favorite vacation destinations. What’s on your list?
I never know where research will take me, or what I will learn. Recently, I learned about the huge connection between Colorado and tuberculosis in the late 1800s.
It all started innocently enough. I was looking for major events in Colorado in the 1890s to help shape a new historical romance I am writing. Purely by chance, I stumbled across a mention of the number of tuberculosis sanitariums which existed then.
You see, starting in the 1860s, TB was a virulent epidemic in the eastern United States. To combat it, doctors often recommended their affected patients move to an area with a sunny, dry climate. The eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, with its dry climate and clear mountain air, fit the bill perfectly.
As a result, more and more tuberculosis sufferers moved west to places like Denver and Colorado Springs. Cities quickly ran out of places for these people to stay. Some were even jailed for a time because they were homeless. Conditions evened out somewhat after numerous sanitariums and boarding houses were built to provide a comfortable setting and some medical care.
Perhaps the building of the sanitariums helped fuel the influx of ill people, called "lungers." Whatever the cause, the end result was astounding. According to estimates, a full one-third of the people living in Colorado in the 1880s-1890s had tuberculosis. Denver was even nicknamed the “World’s Sanitarium.” Can you imagine that? What was it like to live in a place with such a huge increase in population in a matter of years, and to have most of those new residents be so ill?
I don’t know if I will use this information in my manuscript, but it was still interesting to learn. I have seen references to sanitariums in the past, and this provided much more context about their origins and the need they filled. If nothing else, it makes me wonder what other fascinating historical trivia I will learn in the future. (All in the cause of story research, of course.) I'll be sure to share more fun or unusual history in the future.
(And in case you were wondering, the country eventually got this deadly disease under control. Medicines were developed during WWII to treat TB, and by the end of the 1940s, most of the sanitariums had been converted to other uses.)
I write historical fiction, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.