I was helping out a friend who’s doing work-for-hire. She had a desk piled high with first-draft manuscripts and just needed someone to read quickly and give her an idea of what needed to be done. She had a lot at 20-25 pages and a few novels.
It’s always the same, isn’t it? The openings are sluggish, the characters flat, the dialogue stiff, the pace either glacial or warp speed. The writing wasn’t bad, it was just early in the game. I could see glimmers of jewels buried in the snow but only glimmers. No publisher would want to get his hand that cold feeling around in there.
My early drafts are that way, aren’t yours? There’s that first chapter that usually gets thrown out. Those ancillary characters rubbed out, their bodies hidden in the cellar. The thick, red line through sentences like this: “And then Ben, flinty eyes flashing crazily, ripped the parking ticket from the attractive meter maid’s swollen hands as, pulsing with rage, he careened down the placid streets to confront his stern father who never really understood him.”
Prizes and praise separate us. Envy enters stage left wearing a long green gown. Where we are bonded is in our bungling. That’s when we feel “the million invisible filaments of connection, trivial or profound, that bind us to one another and to the small planet we call home.”
P.S. I’m out of the country Dec. 8-20, but the new poem (December’s) is up on the website now (http://ronkoertge.com/rons-books/) and early next week there’ll be a link to a HUNGER MOUNTAIN piece I wrote. In case you miss me.