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Who Cares?January 28, 2014

I just realized something big about my writing process. 

This is why I hate a first draft: It's the Who Cares? draft. 

When I'm about 50,000 words into a 100,000 novel, you know what I start hearing in my head? WHO CARES? Who cares about these people? Do I? Not really, not that much. I've invested enough in them now (because by this point I've written 80k and thrown out 30k) that I do care a little. But I don't know the end of their story yet. That's the whole problem. 

Until I know what breaks--and then fixes--my characters, I can't care all the way. They aren't totally alive. At the midpoint of a first draft, each and every one of the characters could turn around on the page, flip me off, and walk out of the book and my life. 

When I write The End, though, I care so much it hurts. That's why, to me, revision is divine. I get to go in and play God, moving parts around and upping the stakes so that they really matter. So that the reader really cares. When I make myself cry at the computer (never during a first draft!) I know I'm getting closer. 

It strikes me that maybe that's why it took me so long to actually finish a whole novel. I had three incomplete novels under the bed that I gave up on when I couldn't silence the Who Cares? I had no idea that was normal for me.

Maybe it's normal for you. Keep pushing, keep writing your way all the way through it, even if, for a large part of that time, you just don't care. 

I bet you will. 


I totally agree with you! First drafts are painful and require a huge amount of blind faith. I find this is more true of fiction than nonfiction. Once you've got the material on paper, revision can be (but isn't always) fun!

I don't write a lot of fiction, but my nonfiction...I have come to the painful realization that in order to find my thesis, I must write the entire essay (paper, whatever). In the long-winded conclusion, I will find my thesis. Then I copy it, paste it into a new document, and write the REAL essay (paper, whatever) based on said thesis.

I just can't Make A Thesis. It has to be found, and (annoyingly) it's only ever found at the end of my first draft.

Great advice. Thanks!

Well, i slogged through to the end of my Nanowrimo draft, (yay!) and just recently reread it. Seems like it was written by an insane person. I guess to toss it and say who cares might be a mistake? How to decide?

So interesting in that last night a friend in recovery and I were speaking about her daughters who are active again in the drug scene. We agreed that we can live in acceptance to an extent but the anxiety is in that human craving to know 'how does this end'?

Thank you for this... I'm midway. And it hurts to even think about it and look at my draft and get to the freaking page! I love it when you write about writing :)

Thank you! I had the hardest time with my NaNo this time around because I had such a huge case of Who Cares. My main character just would not do anything, at least until I killed off her husband. Then the story finally got some momentum, at least enough to pull off a win. Nice to know it wasn't just me!

Thank you for this. I've been at the "who cares? point in a long academic work for, um, ten years. This is why your thesis or dissertation committee keeps telling you "just finish and fix it later!" but when you graduate there's nobody telling you that. Until Rachael does! :)

Great post! This is exactly why I dread first drafts so much, though I never quite realized it until I read your post. Thank you! I've linked to this at my blog: http://kathrynmckade.blogspot.com/2014/02/writing-links.html

Thank you so much for writing that insight. I've talked about that very thing with my sister, but never knew how to get past it. but I want to write. maybe that's the key.....getting past that - and naming it is useful too. Thanks again, Rachel, for being my inspiration. I want to write.....have drafts written......and then the Who Cares? voice talks me out of it. Now I have new resolve. XOXO

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