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 can tell it is spring at last outside. The baby animals are showing up. We saw several baby animals (or hints of future baby animals) this past week.
Baby #1: Fawn
The first was a young fawn in the hay field across the road from our house last Sunday. Something in the grass appeared to fascinate him, because he circled around one area for quite awhile. When he got spooked, he bounced a few feet away on gangly legs which seemed to have springs in them, then came back to that spot a few minutes later. I didn’t see the mama deer; she was probably in the nearby trees keeping an eye on her baby.
Babies #2: Ducklings
Then a few days later, I stopped at an intersection on the edge of town and saw four little ducklings trying to cross a busy road. Luckily, the first car they encountered also saw them. It stopped and waited for them to cross its lane. I held my breath for a few minutes as they crossed the second lane. But the cars whizzing by managed to avoid them. When they were safely on the other side of the road, I also had a break in traffic and was able to continue on my way.
Babies #3: Kittens
The next day, I glanced out a window at our back yard, and saw a familiar stray white cat. This wild cat has been hanging around for more years than I would expect for a cat living outside on its own wits. But this time, she looked different. Judging by the larger-than-normal belly she was displaying, I suspect we will have some baby kittens around in the near future.
Babies #4: Turtles
Last evening was the final encounter. I looked out another window, and saw a mama turtle preparing to lay a batch of eggs about ten feet from our front door. She had already dug a hole by the time we noticed her, and was in the process of filling it with white eggs. Then it took about another hour of laboriously using her rear legs to cover the eggs with dirt before she was done. She crawled (fairly quickly, I would think, for a turtle) across our driveway to the trees on our side property line, and disappeared.
All of these special sightings served to remind me how amazing Mother Nature can be. Now that the weather is finally getting better, the animals are having the babies which will assure the continuation of their kind. How smart of them to wait until winter is long gone!
As we all know, this past Monday was Memorial Day. Last week, our local paper ran a special article which really brought the meaning of the day home to me. Titled “Why We Can Never Forget,” it was an article about the 56 men from our rural county who died in World War II. A member of the county historical society spent the last year researching these men. Five were highlighted in the newspaper.
Reading the short profiles was so sad. The first thing which struck me was how young they all were. The ages for the five men ranged from 18 to 28. Correction. The youngest was still about a month shy of his 18th birthday when he died. He was one of the many eager heroes who lied about his age in order to enlist.
The second thing that struck me was how much living they willingly gave up to serve and ultimately die for their country. The oldest of the five, at 28, was the only one married. The 23-year-old planned to get married to his sweetheart on his next leave home. The two youngest both dropped out of high school to enlist. Only think of everything they never got a chance to do.
And yet, in one sense, there is nothing special about these valiant young men. They are merely a sampling of the thousands of men across the country doing exactly the same thing back then. There were thousands of young men around the U.S. dropping out of school, leaving their sweethearts behind, quitting their jobs, or kissing their wives and children good-bye before they left to fight the Axis Powers. Their determined bodies held more heart and courage and honor than we can begin to comprehend.
So I hope you did more than break out the grill this past Memorial Day. I hope you at least paused for a few moments to reflect on all of the courageous men and women who have given everything they have in service of their country. Not just from World War II, but from all of the wars and conflicts our country has endured. And I hope your appreciation for their sacrifices extends beyond one day in May. My hope is that you always remember, and find ways to thank their families and counterparts today. The smallest act of kindness and thanks can go a long ways.
I am keeping the article from our local newspaper. It helps to remind me “Why We Can Never Forget” our military heroes. God bless them all.
I write historical romances, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.