I just finished the second pass through the second draft’s Chapter 27, working title “Up On the Roof.” I’m quite happy with this particular chapter. I’m at a good point now, a point of relief. I’ve been working on this second draft for something like four years. It’s over 800 pages long—and it’s not finished yet. I’ve known from the beginning that this draft was going to be much longer than the final book, which I intend to come in at around 300 pages. I’ve been working from the idea, “If we wish to compress something, we must first let it fully expand.” Because I’ve been uncertain as to what would be included in the third and final draft, I haven’t bothered with fine-tuning the voice or polishing. There’s no point in struggling over the fine points of a passage when you’re not sure whether it will be included in the final text. Most of my work has been the creation of story structures. But it drags me to do so much writing that isn’t of high quality. When I wrote songs, I polished every line before moving on to the next. I’m not used to writing this way. But when you’re working on a long book, it’s the only practical method.
A few days I ago I came to understand that everything that follows this point in the story has to relate back to something that came before. So tomorrow I start work on the outline for the final draft. I know enough now to do that. This also allows me to determine what goes into the rest of the second draft. So I won’t have to spend time working on stories that won’t be in the book. I welcome the change. I’m exhausted from working day-in and day-out at the same level of quality. It’s less than satisfying not to be able to work on the nuances, which I love. I’ve been craving a change that wouldn’t take me away from the work—there’s still so much to do—and working on the third draft outline fulfills that perfectly. It’s also something I can do by hand at a time when I’m sick of looking at the computer. And then there’s the feeling of coming into the home stretch. I’m not quite there yet, but when I lay my hand out flat just above my eyes, I can see it.
Street Singing in Seattle in 1972. Photo by Timothy Eagan