First Drafts and Winter

2013: My Year of Less Dysfunction

It occurred to me a few years ago that if I detest winter, and I DO, that means I’m detesting a quarter of my life. Just like a pig parade, that’s a terrible idea.

So I asked those who liked winter what they liked about it:

Cozy blankets.

Warm drinks on a chilly day.

Hunkering down at home.

I prefer mojitos poolside, but yeah, okay. If there has to be winter, blankets and warm slippers and chai lattes could probably help.

Meanwhile, in the writing side of my life, I finished up my second novel, the first draft of which was written years ago. And while I wait to hear from my agent about whether I need to keep working on it or if it’s ready to go, I started work on a new novel.

Healthy, right?

But I realized that I’ve been feeling kind of wintery about first drafts. I dread writing them. My favorite part of the novel process is probably the last 20 percent—the cleaning, refining, drawing subtle connections between related parts. I LOVE that work. But the stuff that comes before? Not so much.

I’m not sure if it’s brilliant or inane to be writing a first draft in winter. But with my determination to be NOT dysfunctionl as my guiding force, it’s going pretty well.

I think the key to all of this may be the fact that I changed where I write. My first two books were written in the kitchen of my house. And then my husband started working from home. And using the kitchen more frequently than you’d think a person could.

I moved upstairs. I cleaned my office. Cleared everything off my desk.

Yet where I find myself most writing days is sitting the big arm chair in my bedroom. This is the key: I sit beneath an electric throw blanket. I’m toasty. In fact, one day last week, after meeting my goal of writing a thousand words, I decided I’d rather write a second thousand than get up and exercise, which had been the next scheduled act in my planned not-dysfunctional day.

Next year, I’ll figure out adding a healthy attitude about exercise into the first-drafting and winter plan. For now, being toasty in the corner of my bedroom is working pretty well.

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9 Responses to First Drafts and Winter

  1. I’m shocked by how many trips into the kitchen my husband makes on the days that he works at home, since I like to write from a perch on the kitchen island. Does he come here to chat, to eat, to kill time, to drive me crazy? (sigh) Makes me question the true efficiency of tele-commuting.

    Sorry, but I like winter. It enhances my appreciation for spring, summer and fall!

    • literaryfriendships says:

      I’m GLAD you like winter. It makes me happy to know there are people not turned inside-out by this hateful season. (How’s my healthy attitude looking now?)

  2. Erin Murphy says:


  3. Erin Murphy says:

    I mean, erm, and also, I am so happy for you about the lack of writing dysfunction! Associating the drafting process with cozy happy things seems very, very smart to me.

  4. What I love about winter: Hats and mittens. Scarves under jackets. Jackets! Cardigans! Pretty sweaters. Striped socks. Quilts on the bed. A warm puppy in my lap. The world slows down. I don’t *have* to go anywhere — I have a built-in excuse: Too much snow, too much ice, too much flu (even if it isn’t true). I love chili and hot soup and warm tea. I love a workout where I’m not sweating like an embarrassed pig after. I love the idea of ice skates, though I’ve never been good at ice skating. And I love tobogganing and skiing and making snowmen and snow angels — when I have the proper clothes for it. Most of all I love sparkly snow under a blue sky. We had that today.

    Like you, I detest first draft writing. Turns out, as of today, I am working on the first draft of the next Ellie McDoodle Diaries book (that’s book 6). Let’s commiserate and suffer together. ❤

    • literaryfriendships says:

      Ruth–I used to try to love the idea of winter, the way you love the idea of ice skates. But the cold. It gets in my bones! I’m going to keep rereading your list of things you love, and try to find my way in. (I don’t need flu for excuses, as people expect misanthropic responses from me.)

      Congratulations on reaching Ellie 6–not too many people can say that! Let’s detest one aspect of our careers together, shall we?

      • The cold bugs me, too. Try standing at your desk instead of sitting — I find I’m a lot warmer.
        Thank you on the congrats. 🙂 And yes, let’s keep this literary friendship going. 😉

  5. Joanne Fritz says:

    I hate winter too, Audrey. Layering helps. I wear three sweaters while I’m sitting at my desk writing. And I try to pretend I’m on a beach, but that’s kinda hard. 🙂

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