Wading Through Word Vomit

My writing has suffered in the past few months due to my being caught in a sinking pit of Word Vomit.

As writers or readers, you may know this term. Word Vomit is a lot like it sounds—the act of spewing words onto a page, no matter how good or bad they sound, whether they make sense or not. Your first draft of anything is going to be mostly Word Vomit. As you read through it and re-write and edit, the Vomit gets cleaned off until three or four drafts later, where you will have a polished piece.

But I’ve always found Word Vomit frustrating in its own ways. Writing’s Block likes to sneak into even the sloppiest of writing, and Motivational Death results shortly after. For the past few months, I have been working on a new writing project. I got six chapters in before I realized I needed a new chapter four to fix the pacing and keep my POV alternations in order. So, with a suggestion from a well-read co-worker, I set out to revise this part of the piece.

I only recently managed to get to a point where I felt I could move on with the story. And ‘Vomit’ is an apt description for what I wrote. The chapter is a mess. While events are mostly in order, there are entire sections containing poor description, and other sections where I literally just wrote [MORE DESC] at the end of a paragraph. It was frustrating for me, to leave even a rough draft sadly incomplete. Yet it helped me see what was so essential about the Word Vomit process.

Yes, it’s messy. Yes, your word choices are terrible. Yes, your descriptions are confusing or incomplete. Yes, your characters are inconsistent. Yet even within the chaos, there is some order. And that order is just enough to let you soldier on ahead with your writing. Even with bracketed comments reminding me that more description was needed and a jumbled writing flow, I see where things are headed. There’s a series of events laid out, not clearly, but more like a street sign in a thick fog. I need to get close to see it, but it’s there.

Word Vomit is like the nervous system of your novel. It’s built on top of your outline—the bones—and is then supplemented by the edits and fixes and cuts you make later—muscle and skin. No matter how you hate it, once the project is complete, you will see how the Word Vomit supported the polished piece.

Chapter Four is an unholy mess, but I can see what it’s trying to be. And that’s enough to help me soldier onwards to Chapter Five.

Categories: musings, On Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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