Don’t Do This: First Drafts Edition
I haven’t been seriously writing for very long. When I say “seriously” I mean putting my ass in my chair, hammering out (bad) drafts, seriously debating about and trying (and failing) to write a query, looking through (and buying) the Guide to Literary Agents 2013 and a lots of other writing books, meeting with other writers, going to conferences, submitting to magazines, and generally trying to get my shit together.
Some of the items on the above list would make an excellent “Don’t Do This” post, but I’ll save that for another day.
Having said all that, I do feel like a writer. A real writer. Not sure what the heck that means just yet, but part of I think- I hope- is that I can look back and say, “Uhh, Sarah, don’t fucking do that again. Idiot.”
So… Here we go. Here is what I’ve learned about first drafts, specifically what NOT to do:
1. Don’t give yourself unlimited time.
My thought process was if I didn’t give myself a deadline, I would finish it on my own time, not be stressed out, be happier with the process which would happen more organically and naturally. That’s a lie. What actually happened is laziness. There is no other way to say it. If you’re like me, you work better under pressure and stress. Give yourself a deadline. If you wanna be like a real writer- I wanna be a real boy!- then give yourself a deadline.
2. Don’t try to follow your outline.
Outlines are fine. Outlines are great. I use one. I suggest everyone use one. I’ve written a post- with illustrations!- about my own outlining technique. However, once the outline is written, go with the flow. For my first novel project, I got very worked up when I couldn’t fit the story into the outline. If I had a big huge red button that made an obnoxious noise like at a basketball game, I would press it now. Because that’s not how writing works. Everyone knows that.
3. Don’t start editing too soon.
I wrote a novel once. Well, most of a novel. I only needed a few chapters to be finished with the first draft, but instead of just finishing the sonuvaa bitch, I started editing. WRONG! Just. Finish. It. The end. Fin.
4. Don’t expect perfection.
It’s gonna be shit. A huge and smelly pile of shit right out of the gate. Even if it’s decent, it’s shit. You can’t write a novel in one round, so don’t set your expectations too high. I did, then cried when I did a first read through, then cut 20 scenes, then another 6, then put it in a binder on a shelf and haven’t looked at since. I may have PNSD. Post Novel Stress Disorder.
5. Don’t talk about it.
Don’t tell a bunch of people what you’re writing. One reason for this is to keep your creativity from clamming up. Another reason is to keep other people’s terrible ideas from invading your mind. Like ivy up a brick wall. Your friends and family may be great people, but their ideas probably suck. Save your masterpiece for your betas, and then, choose your betas wisely.
So there you have it. Those are only 5 of the things I have learned about writing a first draft. Let’s call them my 5 Imperatives of Writing a First Draft. That has a nice ring to it.