There’s a point in a first draft—I’m there now—when everything feels like confusion to me. I don’t know where I came from or where I’m going to. The landscape looks wrong; nothing is where it’s supposed to be. The word roads are behind me. I made them and can still see them. But as I look back they seem all twisted; they have that big-city ,cloverleaf look. They seem without purpose. I’m the maker of gibberish roads. And the road up ahead? Gone. Once I knew where I was going but now it all looks the same up there, empty and vast.
It would be easy to quit. It would be easy to say it is just wrong, all the work I’ve done is just wrong. Easy to open my file, put the curser on Edit, click select all, tap delete. Goodbye. Hello clean page. So full of possibilities, so neat. A novel, like life, is messy. A first draft is really messy. I’ve been to this emotional place before in a first draft. I know I have to keep going. I have to just see that little bit of road ahead of me and go on and hope, believe, that the road will keep extending as I move forward.
I remember E.L. Doctrow saying something similar about writing once. He described writing a novel like traveling across the country on a dark highway. He had the car's headlights and could see a few feet in front of him but all around him was dark. All he had was that tiny light and a vague sense of where he was heading. I guess it's like that for most writers. Faith is a big part of writing a novel.