First Drafts: the Love/Hate Relationship We All Need to Trudge Through

I’ve been around the writing block a couple of years. Got some of the wind knocked out of my sails a couple of times. I was fortunate enough and learned a few things along the way, too. I find the journey exhilarating and other times, overwhelming and painful. Even newbie writers can relate to those roller-coaster sensations.

My biggest dread—The First Draft. *Enter some scary horror movie tune here, please*

Here’s why, and how I keep going at it despite the love hate relationship.

And maybe, just maybe, some of my babble will convince you to persevere as well!

I’m a slow, S-L-O-W writer. Add time restraints. A full time job, a husband I adore and a wonderful almost eleven month old little tyke that I try to spend as much time with as possible. (Yup- mix in a healthy dose of guilt most working momma’s deal with because they work. Some prefer it; others have to because of obligations.) And I’m left with morsels for writing.

Now, because I’m such a slow writer with limited time to write, I would have loved to write pure gold the first time I open a brand new Word document to start something. I tend to expect that first draft to be the same quality of polished draft. It’s not. I don’t think it ever will be. And to be honest, I’m not sure it’s even humanly possible. Writing takes time, a lot of time, and it gets discouraging. And frustrating. And tiring.

My first draft is lacking. ALWAYS. Holes the size of Pluto gapes at me. Inconsistencies dust it like sprinkles on a cake. I take forever to finish. I lose hope. I panic.

I ponder about shoving it aside and think about starting something else. (Obviously convincing myself that the first draft of something else would be better. It’s NOT.) Or I polish up a piece of completed work that doesn’t need polishing – at least not from me.

I’m one of those writers that hate writing but love the idea of having something written. I moved around a bit in my late teenage years, as a result, I lost my earlier manuscripts. Let’s not go into the details. (Blushes and hangs head in shame.) But I managed to cling to two awful, but completed, hand written manuscripts, and to this day I guard them with my life. I have another three completed manuscripts on my laptop. (Of which two might never see the light.) Ah, the feeling of pure achievement when I peek at them. I seem to forget the time and tears I spend on a previous manuscript to get it into that shape.

Then, when I look at the first draft of my work in progress, the crushing reality of all the work still ahead to get this baby mature daunts the excitement. Dims the hope. My critique partners still need to slice through it, because honestly, when I don’t absolutely hate my work, I’m blind and oblivious to my own writing flaws. Writing the second, third and sometimes even a fourth draft, looms. Rewrites and personal edits lie ahead.

But, a first draft—no matter how awful, how raw you find it—is needed to produce something fine and worthy. Without it, you’ll never have anything to work with. A first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. You can improve, fix and polish it once you’ve written it.

There’s a quote by Jodi Picoult I adore, ~ “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

And when the first page of the first draft looms, the wise words of Shannon Hale ~ “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

So don’t despair. Everything worthwhile takes hard work and time.

~Lucy

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