I was talking to a fellow writer the other day who is struggling a bit with her first draft. She’s an amazing writer but sometimes has a hard time putting down that crappy first draft because she’s a self-proclaimed perfectionist. No matter how many people say, “Just write it. It’s a first draft, it’s supposed to suck!” she just hates leaving behind any ugly sentence structures, even the slightest bland-ish character, or stilted dialogue and therefore doesn’t always feel excited about getting back to the work.
We came to the conclusion that what she needed was a payoff. And not just any payoff—a daily, paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence payoff.
So what’s a payoff? Something that excites us about the sometimes not-so-beautiful work-in-progress that brings us back to it day after day, month after month until it can be completed and therefore edited to perfection.
I hadn’t actually thought about it until this conversation and I realized that I have a payoff in place for myself. Sometimes I’ll find myself writing some beautiful prose that I wouldn’t mind reading again and marveling at my brilliance, but most often it’s simply the dialogue.
I love dialogue with all my heart. I like writing conversations and arguments. I love the act of communication and how it can drive a scene either by characters learning more about each other or miscommunication that leads to blows (I like the blows a lot. Ask anyone.). I like speaking dialogue I’m considering for a scene to myself in the mirror while I get ready in the morning (don’t judge, you do it too...erm, maybe) and therefore even in my first drafts, my dialogue tends to shine. Everything else is an atrocious lump but, hey, I have fancy dialogue.
That’s my payoff. I don’t move onto another scene if I feel that the dialogue is even a little off. So the next day, after letting my mind be filled with other (more important) things, I’m still excited to come back and see what my characters said to each other, and what they might say next.
What’s your payoff to keep you writing?