East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Either drop it, or write a s#it first draft in two hours


My friend Lucy is a terrific writer and a wonderful woman, and has the sort of clarity of vision that is one of the fundamental powers of “the Other Half of the Sky”.
I was talking with her about my current plight, and she doesn’t see no problem…

Me: I hate this story, I can’t write it, it’s making me waste more time than the money can justify, and it’s making me deeply unhappy.
Lucy: Have you been paid an advance for it?
Me: No.
Lucy: Then drop it.

And that’s the only answer, really, but… let’s start from the beginning.

Remember that procrastination thing I’m doing?
Five weeks to stop wasting time and finding excuses.
Well, it’s sort of working.
Not only did I pay my bills in time, see my bank and even update my satellite web connection, but I’ve started analyzing what’s going on and what causes me to avoid facing certain problems.

You need a notebook (or a file – I live at the frelling PC, practically, so a TXT file’s just fine) and you start jotting down what’s going on emotionally when you realize you’re dodging an engagement.
What’s making you avoid the commitment? Put a name on it.

It works, and in the case of the sword & sorcery 5000-words short I’m supposed to deliver within a week (contract signed, everything set), it all boils down to

I hate it

The problem is, the editor warned me before I began about “not being too clever” and about “remembering to be ironic”.
That did it.
I’m here, writing about a convent in flames, a magic conspiracy and a duel between a woman in green silk gown and an old nun, and it’s like the editor was looking over my shoulder, going “tut-tut, that’s a bit too clever, don’t you think? Are you really slipping in a quote from Zelazny?”
It’s not even micromanaging – that I hate, by the way – but just priming a series of doubts and self-censorship that basically turn the fun of writing a fine yarn into a continual self-analysis and self-editing.

And so something that was nicely outlined, cleverly plotted (OK, so I say myself) and was supposed to take three afternoons at most and be delivered, has now eaten up a whole week, and I’m deleting more than I am writing.
And what’s really bad is,

  • it’s making me extremely unhappy and restless
  • it’s choking up three other projects I’d rather be working on, two of which have a looming deadline

Lucy is right – I should simply drop it.
Call the editor, tell him to find someone naturally ironic and not as clever as I am to fill the slot.

But there’s another problem – and no, it’s not the money. It’s the fact that I pride myself on being professional enough to hit deadlines and deliver as per contract, no matter what.
I need to get this f#cking story out of my system, and dropping it is not an option, despite being the right, obvious thing to do.

So what now?
It’s a quarter to four on a Sunday afternoon.
I’ll brew me some tea, and then I’ll have a go at the story in the most mindless and unsophisticated way possible – just throw words at it, filling scene after scene.
The legendary “shit first draft” – two hours tops for the missing 2500 words.
Then, after dinner, I’ll hammer the first draft into shape, and deliver it by tomorrow morning.
And then I’ll take care of the things I’d rather be doing.

Wish me luck – I’ll keep you posted.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “Either drop it, or write a s#it first draft in two hours

  1. I wish you luck! And I can relate to those thought processes.


  2. Buona fortuna🐳


  3. 😉


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