BBC’s HoWM – Ugly Bathroom of Self-Loathing

Today on BBC’s HoWM (House of Writing Metaphors) my series continues with self-editing, and why my bathtub needs a serious Find+Replace run on it for “soap scum” and “scrubbing bubbles.”

When I moved into my new HoWM I felt a little awkward using the bathroom. It wasn’t my house yet, and I felt like I was intruding on somebody else’s space when I took a bath. I got over it, but I still despise the downstairs bathroom for one very simple reason.

It’s ugly.

Also, one of the light fixtures in there is trying to kill me, but we’ll get to that later this week.

One trick about loving old farmhouses is that most of them had plaster walls originally, and when that plaster began to crumble, owners tossed up wood paneling. It paints up pretty nice, but I won’t waste paint on that bathroom.

It’s ugly.

I admit to not cleaning it often. Which truly, what am I thinking that will accomplish? Because dirty ugly is way better than clean ugly? Yet, I can’t bring myself to get down on hands and knees and scrub that tub because…

It’ll still be ugly.

So I shower in there, look at the rings on the sides and hate myself a little bit. Very productive.

The rough draft of an ms is like that – ugly. Sometimes we look at it and it doesn’t seem to belong to us. That’s why self-editing is critical, and like all important things in life, very difficult. It’s easy to read that first draft and declare that you hate it. It’s ugly. Give up on it.

Being ugly is exactly the job of a first draft. It’s a basic framework telling you what your story IS, down in the bare bones. My ugly bathroom is for bathing and I can do that in there just fine, but it’s not going to look good until I make it look good, and that means effort on my part.

So stop hating your first run-through for being ugly. Take out the steel wool and clean it up. ‘Cause no one else is going to.

How do you deal with first-draft hatred? Do you take a breather before returning to the story for the edits? Or do you go back to page one with your red pencil right after typing THE END?


11 thoughts on “BBC’s HoWM – Ugly Bathroom of Self-Loathing

  1. This made me laugh more than once. This is so great BBC! You're exactly right about the first draft. Sometimes it's still ugly even after spit polishing it too. You won't be happy with that bathroom until you rip the paneling out and put up drywall, some major improvements. That's what I've had to do with one of my WIP's too. My WIP has had the walls and floor ripped out and replaced so many times I can't count. It's a good thing WIP renovations are free or I'd have to be a millionaire to pay for all of it!


  2. I take a moment to step back and just revel in the fact that I finished. (Finishing a first draft is a big deal for me.) Then a few days later I go back and edit.


  3. I say, “You're dead to me!”

    And I move on to the next thing.

    As a side note, I don't think I ever consider my MS to have a First Draft. As a planner *see yesterday's post* I more consider the first time I read “the end” as a Really Detailed Outline. That doesn't make me hate it, because “it's only a Really Detailed Outline,” I tell myself. However, several edits through and after I send it to my first round of betas I feel this way. Because why the heck haven't they finished it yet? It was so good they shouldn't've been able to put it down!


  4. Ha. We recently compared revisions to packing for vacation and first drafts to salad, but the ugly bathroom analogy is great! The first draft of my first ms was really easy to write because I didn't know what I was doing and I just strung words together, to be edited over the course of the next two years…my new one is harder because now I question EVERYTHING I write! I'd be better off being okay with the ugliness and just getting it done already!


  5. Suzanne – ripping out that paneling and starting from the studs is exactly the plan with that bathroom. I just need time, and money. So, uh, that's kind of a holdup.

    Krista – getting that first draft done is indeed a big deal. I mean hey, if I didn't have a bathroom AT ALL, I'd be thrilled to get even an ugly one. Keep plugging!

    Derrick – a Really Detailed Outline is a great way to look at it, a plan with scenes inserted as benchmarks 🙂

    Christy – yes, the very, very first draft of the first thing I'd ever written was just…. ugh. And I proudly started querying that thing! Oi. Had a lot to learn.

    Jemi – “Attacking” is exactly how I feel when I get down to the editing stage. Shaving bits off and seeing what parts it can live without – very barbaric!


  6. I thought my first draft was pretty great until I put some effort into learning the craft of writing. My revisions started inducing winces and at times, a full shutdown of the laptop. Instead of an ugly bathroom I see a tornado cloud of swirling plot, some great things are swept up in the funnel but all the dust and debris is clouding my sight. I feel like I have this concept that's almost there, but it all needs to be nailed down. Have I used enough cliches and imagery here?

    P.S. Love the ugly bathroom comparison. I also have a bathroom I refuse to clean regularly, it's the husband's responsibility. Sadly, I ususally fold and end up doing it anyway…


  7. Steph – Oh, I know. That “almost” concept is as hard to nail down as an F5. Somehow what's in my head never translates onto the paper quite the way I wanted it to.

    Genn – thanks so much! Glad you liked it!


  8. Ah, BBC, you are genius with house metaphors. I can't stand ugly tubs so I almost always toss them out, instead of fixing it. I really need to embrace the ugly and help it by giving it a make-over. Thanks for this–I'm going to grit my teeth and face the ugly.


  9. With me, I write the draft, then let it jell for a while, so when I do go back to it, I can approach it with a clear head. It's how I worked with my first eBook Neverend. I wrote it, left it alone, came back to it, edited some chapters here and there, left it alone, came back to it, and then worked on the document where I'd stored all the chapters for easier editing. I did the final edit a few days ago before making it live, as it'd been a while since I'd touched it last.

    Yes, I hated editing it. I felt like I was mutilating it, and sometimes I was scared I was overdoing it. But when I read it over afterwards, it looked good, and I was glad I had taken the steel wool to it! (Even though steel wool is rough on the old hands!)


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