A Writer’s Torment

A first-draft dialogue between me and the needling, maddening editor in my head.

Editor: You’re starting the story in the wrong place.

Me: You don’t belong here — not now. Let me get through this myself. I need to get all of this out while I’m thinking of it. To let it pour out.

E (because spelling out Editor again is not necessary?): It’ll never work. You begin with dialogue with characters the reader is only now meeting. There’s no context.

M (see above): The detials don’t matter at this point.

E: You misspelled details: a, then i.

M: Stop it. I’m not going back. You’re stym-ing? stymen-ing me? You’re in my way.

E: You have any good wine here? In vino veritas.

M: I don’t need to drink to write well and what I write is always true.

E: So you say.

M: Leave!

E: You haven’t given this project any thought. Just a pantser, huh? Wouldn’t that mean you’ll need me more than ever because you’re so ill-prepared? Look. You had me figuratively enter through the second floor to get to the kitchen. Mind your structure!

M: My structure is unimportant. I’m writing scenes. I just need to get it all out without you yammering in my head every fucking minute. (Sorry, I’m usually not vulgar.) No one reads the first draft. Or the second. Or the third.

E: You’re spilling nonsense all over the paper. At least use a word processor so you can see those red and green squiggly lines under words and phrases. So you can trip up over spellings and grammar.

M: I wish I could stick this pencil in your eye — fill you with lead.

E: How trite.

M: Maybe I do need a drink, if only to get you to shut the hell up. If I’m drunk, then you’re drunk, then we’ll both do great violence on literary tradition and slur metaphors like overworked similes like someone who shaves the pencil to get it perfectly sharp only to end up with a stub of wood.

E: That was an embarrassing train-wreck.

M: Talk about trite. Now please let me channel my muse.

E: Which muse? There are like eleven of them in Greek mythology.

M: I’m not sure? Eleven? I’ll look that up now. Wait! Nice try. You’re distracting me.

E: It’s not a distraction. I can’t let you get details wrong, or else the reader will fall out of your story.

M: This is the first draft!

E: Look at this: Gray Goose.

M: Ha! You spelled Grey wrong. Some editor you are.

E: I can’t be a better speller than you. I am you. Now take a glass. What shall we drink to?

M: Finding a new career.

Yes, this really was a first draft. Mostly.