Kurt Vonnegut said there are two kinds of writers–Swoopers and Bashers. Swoopers get the basics of the story down in a quick draft, then go back later and refine the prose. Bashers (or, as I like to call us, Bleeders) attack every sentence one at a time until it’s perfect, then move on to the next one.
Personally, I’ve always been a Basher-Bleeder, but in my quest to plot an entire novel I decided to give the other side a try. I set a strict time limit and set upon my very first Swooping session, keeping my sights set on plot structure, believable characters, and overall consistency in the storyline, while ignoring the beauty of the words altogether. This is what Anne Lamott calls writing “Shitty First Drafts” and despite years of reading and re-reading that chapter in Bird by Bird, I’d never tried it.
Overall, the experiment was a success. Bashing-Bleeding is a fine technique for flash fictions, but for an entire novel I’m officially on the side of Swooping. It was faster, easier, and kept me from wasting time polishing my metaphors in what I will no doubt later realize was a dingy rabbit hole, impenetrable dead-end, or pointless detour.
And, of course, as is the nature of Swooping, I wrote some of the shittiest sentences I have ever written in my life. Each and every one of my draft’s 200 pages are full of poor word choices, cliches, lackluster dialogue, crappy metaphors, narrative summary that goes on and on and on… You get the picture. It’s impossible to capture the full extent of the horror without seeing the actual draft (no), but I have specially hand-selected the following for your enjoyment:
The 10 Shittiest Sentences I Have Ever Written
10. The best I could do sucked.
9. The sun was going down, which was weird, because it was noon.
8. It looked like a sea sick flower garden–kind of like my mom’s house.
7. I felt so many emotions.
6. When he stepped out on stage, everyone suddenly got very quiet. Either that or really loud.
5. We traveled on the train, like you do, and I had feelings related to it, although I was unclear about the role it played in the larger scheme of things.
4. “Maybe tomorrow,” he said. Tomorrow. Time meant nothing to me.
3. The surprise took him just as much as the surprise of being surprised. I hung in wait at what kind of surprise it would be.
2. I knew I would have to move quickly. From the corner of my eye I saw his purple coat, his pocket, the red handkerchief. That traitor, I thought. That liar. That evil piece of poop.
1. I continued to struggle in this way that only someone who doesn’t know how to drive can.