Sunday, January 6, 2013

Beer Goggles, First Drafts, and Tattoo Nightmares

I love it when seeming unrelated things connect like paper dolls in my mind. Beer goggles (for those too innocent to know) are what people claim to have been wearing when they've had a few drinks too many and the Star Trek fan who never caught their eye before suddenly becomes HAWT and fascinating and all sorts of kissable.
So what would beer goggles have to do with a first draft of a manuscript? Lots, my friend. Lots. Creating words and worlds, chaos and conflict—it’s intoxicating. We come up for air enamored and hazy, buzzing enough that the lines between a good start and a good manuscript get blurry and sometimes disappear.
One of my current favorite shows is Tattoo Nightmares. It’s a reality show where people with awful tattoos come to three amazing artists to get cover-ups. The backstories? Fascinating. The finished products? Mind blowing. You can hardly see traces of the botched pieces they used to have. They each leave with a masterpiece of skin art.
Being a part of a critique group keeps me from beer goggling after a first draft. I am still the artist, but discussing my manuscript with other writers helps sober me up and transform a good beginning into a work that’s ready to show others.
So how about you? Ever fall in love with an awful first draft or get a terrible tattoo? Comment and tell us about it.


  1. Laura,
    I loved the tie in between beer goggles, tatoos, and writing. You are so creative in your approach!

    Have you ever written a first draft that poured out almost too easily? I did. It was short, cute, and I thought, "This is it." Since then, it's been through many revisions and now some of the lines that were irresistable earlier have been cut. I held on to them far too long. I got nudges to make changes to a repeating stanza, but no one dared suggest I drop it all together. When I took off my beer goggles, I knew I had to let the stanza go. Thank goodness those goggles are removable.

  2. Thanks, Linda!

    And yes, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes, when I'm revising, it helps to save the cuts as a new document. Then if I really miss the way it was before, I can change it back. I almost never like the old way better, but it makes letting go a little less painful.

  3. Fantastic!!! Crit groups help us cut the crap and get to the good stuff - minus our beer goggles! FAbulous post!

  4. Donna--Thanks for the comment and for all the drafts you've helped me view with clearer eyes. :) You're a great critique partner.

  5. Indeed, I have had 'beer goggles,' and lots of them, especially when I first started writing. Nowadays I tend to go on an inverted-goggle-look and think, "Oh, that's ghastly!" when I finish a first draft. Later, on re-reading, I usually find something redeemable in the beastly thing!
    A fun post....

  6. Inverted goggles? Oh, I like that. Isn't it amazing how a little distance changes the way we see our work? Thanks, Maureen!

  7. I must wear beer goggles all the time because every story I write is super! Amazing! Brilliant! I know,in my heart that it is THE ONE. This is the one editors are going to fight over. This is the one they will look at and say, "Perfect! No edits needed." This is the one that will take off like a rocket right onto the NYT Bestseller list. Then I take off those goggles and. . . I think, Oh shit, this one needs work. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

  8. I love dreams. They're what keeps us moving forward. :)

  9. Love this analogy!
    Fortunately, I've never gotten a terrible tattoo, but I write first drafts almost exclusively with beer goggles. Then I usually try the 'walk away and let it simmer' trick, but when I return to it, my brilliant masterpiece seems to have rotted into a pile of trash, and, if I'm not too repulsed, I pull on some rubber gloves and dig for the salvageables.
    Any advice for not getting overly discouraged when you return to your first draft with your goggles removed?

  10. Thanks for commenting, Laura! I feel your pain. But remind yourself that first drafts are supposed to be rough drafts. Think of it as gem mining instead of digging through a pile of trash. Don't be discouraged by the mud and the muck. Focus on what shines! Even when we find a big nugget of awesomeness, it will take cutting and polishing before it's ready to show off, but it's all part of the process. Hang in there!