No, I’m not talking about my closet.
I’m taking about my latest novel manuscript. I’m about 50k words into the first draft and I’ve created such a mess, I’m not sure how my characters are going to get out. Poor souls.
This is a good thing. Good stories are always messy. And writing them is even messier, especially in the chaos of the first draft, which is not only messy but sloppy (yes, there’s a difference) and relatively crappy—the defining characteristic of first drafts. But hey, there’s nowhere to go but up. You can’t fix what you haven’t written.
So. I’m smack dab in my self-inflicted fictional mess and I keep thinking of the last time I made Rice Krispie treats, years ago. (I think I’ve only made them twice in my life) Anyway, as I was attempting to press the gooey sticky stuff in the 9x 13 pan, I remember thinking, Why is this so messy? Why is this so hard? This is supposed to be easy! The recipe on the back of the cereal box says so. Three ingredients. No baking. Come on! I am pleased to report that I have since realized that cooking spray on a rubber spatula or wax paper is a beautiful thing but, at the time, in my ignorance, I was using my hands.
Messes—in writing, in the kitchen, in relationships, in life—are unavoidable. Yet they always take us by surprise. What? This?! Now?! This is life after all, on the messy, muddled, mixed-up side of heaven. Eventually, all will be tidied up and clear and set right. It just might take waaay longer than expected.
As for me, I need to get back to my characters. I can almost hear them screaming, Get me out of here!
Then again, I might leave them hanging for a while longer, let the mess thicken like pea soup. Because honestly, right now I’m still deciding which rope to throw them, which of them deserve a rope. And even though first drafts sometimes make me want to pound my head against my desk, I trust it will all work out. I guess I have to make it work out, in the end.
Eventually. We’ll get there. Right now I’m just going to embrace the mess.