Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Dreaded First Draft

Before I give my take on first drafts, I want to share a post I just read that was AWESOME! Natalie at Between Fact and Fiction always gives fantastic advice, and today's was no exception. She nailed every single thing that I've been feeling about my first draft since starting this whole wonderful, crazy process of writing. So, please, check it out!

Now, I've been working on my story for a little over a month and a half now, but I started actually thinking about the story and getting to know the characters back during the summer. This phase, the brainstorming, lasted for about two months. I took my time making notes, creating character sketches, looking up information about the setting of the story, and reading articles and books with tons of helpful advice about writing your first book. I did this until I had a notebook filled with notes, but no story, so mid September found me sitting before my laptop with a blank word document. I was excited, but scared at the same time. I was ready to create my baby, but in the back of my mind was that nagging doubt: You've never done this before, it will SUCK! I ignored it and happily began typing away. For about three weeks everything was great, the word count was increasing steadily, then the doubt came back with a vengeance. This is no good, nobody will ever like this, why are you wasting your time? I told the little voice (you know, evil inner editor) to shut up and continued. I even started blogging about that time. But the more I worked on the story, the louder the voice shouted. IT SUCKS! STOP NOW! THIS WILL NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY!

I don't know about you, but this is a serious problem for me. I am one of those people who loves to have everything perfect, and the thought of creating something that is, well, just bad makes me feel ill. I was one of those annoying people in school who was never happy with B's, I only wanted A's, so this is really hard for me.

So, my word count is creeping up little by little, but nothing like it was in the beginning. I'm on page 56, and believe me, I'm very proud to have written that much, but I wish I could just accept that this draft is going to suck. That's why I linked Natalie's post. It is a reminder that I am not alone. I'm not the first person to write a first draft and I certainly won't be the last. I have got to give myself permission to write it, no matter how bad it is, and use the revision stage to satisfy my tendencies to make things perfect. I've even got to accept that it won't be perfect when I edit it, but that's O.K.

I hope that all of you getting ready for NaNo takes this to heart. I wish I was joining you, but I'm still working on this baby. I'm not going to give up on it, I'm going to keep plugging along, and I will finish it. Wouldn't it be great if I finish with everyone at the end of November! That will be a reason to celebrate!

So, how do you feel about your first drafts? Do they drive you insane? Do you have to constantly battle the evil editor? Or are you one of the fortunate ones who just plows on through without ever listening to it?


  1. I'm embarking on a first draft right now. The blank page and blinking cursor starting at you is pretty intimidating. This is my third novel--it doesn't get easier to start. But yes, it's important to just write and try to let the editor be silent. I understand, I was that A student too, so I feel your pain on always wanting it to be perfect.

  2. Climbing that try right now too. The fear of failure is ever present, but I want this more than anything I have wanted. If I can just make it the rough draft, I feel so much better. Like a writer.

    Looking forward to what NaNo and November will bring.

  3. Roni - That's scary, knowing it doesn't get any easier even after completing a few books! But we've got to remember to always keep trying.

    Tamika - I know how you feel about wanting this so much. I've wanted to do this since I was a kid, and I owe it to myself to try. Good luck with NaNo.

  4. The first draft of my WiP was intimidating- it took me two years to finish! Nothing compares to the feeling of accomplishment when it finally complete, though, so don't give up!

  5. melane,

    You definitely have to accept less than perfection from yourself. I follow an author on facebook who once said that she could be halfway through a book and still not know if a story is there, but she also knows that she feels this way often (because she kept a journal during several of her books). This, to me, is very heartening, because I am much the same. For my first MS, I whipped it out in less than a month. Then shelved it for a year. It needs A LOT of work, but it is my first love, my first ms, so I will be patient and do my best to get it where it needs to be, but for now I have moved on to another.

  6. The first first draft is the hardest! Mine was terrible even though I edited as I went. I was still learning how to write fiction. That manuscript is not something I'm proud of, but I learned so much as I wrote and tried to edit it.

    The next one was much easier for me to write (mostly because I kind of knew what I was doing).

  7. Mariah - I am still going at it. I've put too much work into it so far to give up now.

    Tina Lynn - I hope you get a chance to work on the first book again. It sounds like you still really love it.

    Natalie - Yes, the first one is hard. I really hope it gets easier next time.

  8. That is great advice, thanks for sharing the link :) I agree with Natalie that the first draft is hardest... although it's never easy. You are completely right, though, what makes it easier is letting go and accepting that you're going to write less than perfect (or even, awful!!) and move on. With each book I've written, the letting go has been a little easier and it will be for you too :)

  9. Hi Melane! I'm a first time visitor to your blog, and I have to say I am right there with you. I started my first WIP in March and was very slow about getting any words down. I'm still not finished with it, but in the last month or so have made decent progress. I can't help but hear those same words from my own little voice. I have decided to shelve the WIP for now and start with a new idea for Nano. I'm hoping it will help me learn to ignore that inner voice and get the words down faster.
    Good luck to you!

  10. With each novel, the first draft gets easier. I'm actually the type who plows through the first draft. It's my "I'm on a high" phase. And then I completely loath myself during edits. Its really not very healthy but me and my inner editor have learned to respect each other through the process. LOL

  11. My first drafts are not good because I write them by the seat of my pants. I end up having to go back and rewrite, revise, edit, until they don't look anything like the first draft, but it's how I work. I won't be doing NaNo either. I've got to finish my baby up too. I'm also shooting for the end of November. We can do it!

  12. ''You've never done this before, it will SUCK! I ignored it and happily began typing away''.
    that is the of love for your litrary creation

  13. Diana - Natalie's advice was dead-on. I'm glad that she wrote it when she did.

    JenE - Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your new project.

    Kasie - I'm really jealous that ya'll have that understanding. I need to learn to do that.

    Susan - Yeah, we can finish at the end of November. I'm looking forward to it.

    Heavenly Muse - Thank you!

  14. I know exactly the feeling you are talking about. Because of it I crafted every word in my first draft of my first book. But then I realized how much I ended up cutting, and I was like, What the heck!! I spent months of my life on that stuff and now I just have to toss it!? Consequently I'm much better now at just rough drafting first and perfecting later. :)

    Good Luck!