Monday, June 25, 2012

Was my 1st draft really this bad?

So before you think I'm one of those delusional writers with an inflated sense of self, let me be clear: my first draft of my novel was atrocious.

In fact, it was so bad I had to cut about 20K words right off the top because I started the story two weeks before anything happened and introduced at least four characters who had no impact on the story what-so-ever.
All those truly awful unused words!

But I worked on that draft for five months and made it all shiny and pretty.

And that's the problem I'm having now while working on my new MS. With every new paragraph I can't help but think, "This is not the best I can do. I'm going to have to rewrite that." And that's hardly a motivational attitude when I'm trying to pump out words. I seem to have forgotten that the pretty, shiny MS I sent out to the scary world of agents started out as a big lump of Please Revise.

I've heard the advice everywhere that we have to give ourselves permission to write a bad first draft, but that's easier to say than do.

Somehow, I convinced myself that I would become a better writer the longer I wrote. And to be clear, I am. But I set myself up for some kind of impossible improvement. The kind where the words flow out into a nearly perfect manuscript that only needs minor tweaking during the revision process. Ha!

So, I'm working on it. Reminding myself that it's ok if I use an adverb now, write a dull sentence that gets the point across but needs to be rewritten for flow, or insert a [insert x here] when I'm not sure what to write. It's a daily struggle to resist the urge to stop writing the new and just fix what I have so far (which you know from my last post is not very much).

So what do you do? Any mental tricks for giving yourself permission to write a bad first draft?

13 comments:

  1. Fast drafting really helps. I write quickly and don't think much at all. I just write as I see the novel unfold in my mind. And believe it or not, the writing comes out better when I don't let my head get too involved. If that makes any sense. ;P

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    1. Candace's class starts on the 7th. I'm hoping she has a nice cure for my neurosis. :)

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  2. Learning to have a crappy first draft was life altering for me. Before, I just had a bunch of really shiny, pretty first chapters. Now, I have a WHOLE STORY!! Oh my gosh! I used to sit and rewrite the same sentence 5 times, but then you never get story to paper.

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    1. Yep, I need some story blinders this time. And someone chanting, "pay no attention to the rough draft behind the curtain."

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  3. I allow myself (WANT myself) to write a 'crappy' first draft, because then I can let go, be free,and WRITE. And of course, then I find out that my first draft is pretty cool. It needs a lot of changes. In fact, the second draft may be totally different. But the first draft gets the credit for letting me let loose, let wild, and write until I find the story.

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    1. That's where I want to be, I'm just not there yet. You give me hope.

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  4. I used to be good at bad first drafts, but now I keep trying to edit myself as I go. Thanks for the reminder that we need to allow ourselves a poorly written first draft.

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    1. I'm with you. I either didn't seem to mind that the first draft of my last book was bad or I didn't realize it was bad until I was finished. Either way, it's harder this time.

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  5. I love drafting just because I don't have to follow any rules. It can be TERRIBLE and that's okay because I know that later on I'll have the chance to make it better. It really lets my brain go places that it couldn't if I let my inner editor out too early. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks, Adrianne. I'm trying to adopt that policy. I'm hoping to come around soon.

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  6. NO ONE WRITES PERFECT FIRST DRAFTS, so get that thought right out of your head. Some people find it easier to crank out the first draft as quickly as possible and leave the bulk of the work until later. I find I get bored and disgruntled "later." So I revise as I go and sometimes take 2-3 weeks to complete a chapter but I enjoy it because I'm still in love with the concept. Do whatever works for you. :-)

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    1. I'm glad you've found something that works for you. I tried that option but found that I spent a lot of time revising stuff that ended up getting cut. I'm trying to avoid editing what I have until I've decided it's going to stay.

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  7. I don't think my website will notify you if I comment on your comment, so I am leaving it here. I seriously laughed out loud when I read your comment about shovelling horse poo. Just keep shovelling. It will turn to sand and then it will turn to gold!

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