The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
Ha! I love this Terry Pratchett quote. Not only is it a freeing thought but it’s actually quite true in its astute observation if only we would just listen and apply!
Writer’s tend to have overly active imaginations when you add that to the tendency to overthink and over analyze every thing – especially when it come out of their pen – a first draft can represent quite the paralyzing obstacle.
BUT! Things being what they are a first draft is always going to lead to a second and a third and so the number grows.
Of course we would all like to think that we are so good at what we do that when we put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard it is just an extension of the genius that makes such perfect sense in our heads. But honestly when was the last time that something translated itself from your head and into reality without becoming at least a little (if not a lot) muddled, lost in transit, or confused?
I know personally that my mind is often much faster than my fingers in most cases, because when it starts – that overflowing need to write, that inspirational spark of the fantastic and the I just have to get this down need – it can be hard to unscramble and keep up with all the thoughts and ideas that come rushing out at the same time. It’s the excitement and eagerness to get it all out, all down at once. To move on to the next and see where it takes you! Because here you are sitting down to write the book you want to read, to engage with characters and concepts that are like children and old friends to you. There is an innate want and responsibility to get it right, to have it make sense, to have it come across the best to its and your ability so that you can share it with the world!
But too often our need and want to share overrides our enjoyment of hearing the story ourselves. I’ve known many a writer who stresses over getting it right the first time. Who spends their writing time starting and stopping, erasing and rewriting and doubting that their any good at all because the stress themselves out of their own basic satisfaction: That of storytelling.
Well I say listen to Terry. Why bother editing before you have to? It’s so much less intimidating to start writing that book, that screenplay, that short story etc. if you start it having fun. If you just let loose your ideas in the realm of fantasy and creation.
Keep to your outline, your cannon and continuity of course, but inside those guidelines go nuts! Have fun with it, explore, experiment, and for goodness sake don’t hold back for the fear of it not being perfect. The “bad” stuff is there for a reason. It’s there so that when you come back to it imagination can be reignited, fresh eyes can be focused in on at least the idea of what you wanted to convey as you polish and round its rough edges.
If you only ever write and delete for fear or disappointment of it not being perfect then you will never leave the first page of the first draft of the rest of your life and story. (Sorry, the life coach in me couldn’t help itself ;))
I know what its like to be on a winning feel good streak only to be stopped in your tracks by muddied road. To be tripped up in a part of the story that just doesn’t seem to flow. Right now actually I am in that very spot with my novel. Everything was flowing so good, things were coming together then WAM! POW! Stuck. I kept going at it writing things that just didn’t feel right, that I wasn’t as happy as I had been up to that point with, but you know what I did? I wrote it up and I saved it. That’s right I hit save and walked away. Then the next day I came back and I made what I had work. It wasn’t as bad off as I was seeing after all.
Moving forward I’m still on some bumpy ground (I blame the trauma of my child hood. ;)) but I’m not about to let it stop, or worse, freeze my progress. When it is time to write I do just that I sit down and I write. If it’s not feeling perfect or good enough I work through, I push through then if when I come back to it I end up deleting it oh well because I played with what I was given when I sat down I didn’t waste my time worrying about it not being good enough. Because I know the road to good writing is paved with drafts. Multiple drafts.
The most important thing you can do is get your story smack, down out of your head. It’s not doing anyone any good whirling around up there in the depths of your imagination. Because in the end we’re writers and as writer’s we have so many ideas running around our heads, inspirations setting themselves off and being triggered or sparked at any given time of the day then circling their way around our vertebrata and very essence, basically we will always think of something new, something better etc. It’s the name of the ever growing game.
The best thing you can do is write. Just start writing and let the ideas flow from there free from judgment or scruples. So that when you come back you have something to fine tune to the story of your dreams instead of the stop and start of your nightmares!