Because I mentioned first drafts the other day, I thought it would be worth talking about, because there’s this romantic but needlessly intimidating misconception that good writers just kinda spill instant greatness onto the page. The truth is that first drafts are just that. It’s kind of a slog. Mary Shelley didn’t bang out Frankenstein in one go. The story she told at Lake Geneva was only marginally similar to her final novel. You have to give yourself some permission to be less than perfect when you begin. Your first pass isn’t the time to worry about being cheesy or cliched or whatever. Just get it down. Try things. Experiment. Sometimes you have to cross a line to know where it is. You can pull back later. Recognize that the first draft is where you are supposed to fuck up. It’s the testing range. When it’s done, you will sit down with it, red pen handy, and you’ll cross out stuff that doesn’t work. You’ll make notes to yourself in the margins. Then you’ll take another pass and make those adjustments. Then you’ll take the red pen out again and hone it more. Again and again. There will be tons of drafts. They can amount to huge changes. That’s okay. The process is a journey. You’re learning things. It’s not magic. It’s just evolution.

Well, I disagree on the ‘not magic.’  ^_^ Sometimes I think it IS magic.  You’re creating something out of nothing!  

But seriously, yes!  This is totally right!  First drafts are MEANT to be stupid and wrong.  Sometimes they’re not, because God loved you that day or something, but they EXIST so that you can fix them and make them better.

And another thing you don’t see from good writers is all their failures.  You only see their big wins, the finished pieces they decided are worth sharing with the world.  You don’t see the folders full of abandoned manuscripts, or all the deleted half-started attempts that were so clearly doomed to failure that they just tossed them.  Ray Bradbury famously wrote every single day.  Thousands upon thousands of pages of scratch writing.  How many of those do you think became finished pieces?  Statistically, not very many.  (Oh, Ray Bradbury, I miss you.)

I’m bad at this, myself, this giving myself permission.  We need to think of it not as losing every time we write less than well, but as winning every time we write at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *