Thursday, September 1, 2016

Lessons Learned: First Drafts

I learned a lot over the past months as I worked on Breakout Play.

My life has been full of ups and downs so far in 2016, which has affected my writing time. And then, when I sat down to write, I struggled with getting the words out of me. Since I'm a relentless perfectionist, I wanted the first draft to be, well, perfect. I wanted every sentence to be well-crafted and full of detail. So of course I painstakingly agonized over every. single. word.

The prose didn't flow; it trickled slowly onto the page.

Once it was finished, I sent it out to my critique partner and beta readers for notes and comments. They pointed out what they thought didn't work and what worked, and I dove back into my draft to make it better. To make it the book on your eReaders today.

That's when it hit me: being a good writer isn't in writing a good first draft. No, being a good writer means being able to craft the story over the course of several drafts.

Writing a first draft is like making clay. It's making mud, making substance, that you can use later; it's getting words on a page that you can delete or add to during the coming phases of revision and editing. This should not be the hard part about writing a story.

So when you work with the second draft (and every, you're shaping the clay that's already been made into a form. This is the hard part. This is where all the work is, when you use your muscles to knead, roll out, and assemble the statue and use your brain to envision what it is you're planning and then execute. It's carving the lines and details that will reveal the true beauty in the art. It's cutting out sections or chapters that don't help to advance the plot or define the characters, and instead layering in details and emotions that you missed the first time around. It's shaping the story into something smoothly written but what tells the story that was inside you all along.

I learned that the only thing that matters about first drafts is getting them finished.

Because once they're finished, that's when the real work begins.

But you can't work with something that isn't there. You need words on the page in order to mold the story into what you want it to be.

With this lesson learned, I hope to crank out first drafts more quickly with the intentions of spending more times on the revisions. I'm thinking that this can help me publish more quickly—but I'm hesitant to make any guarantees! After all, I did make a resolution to publish three novels this year, and I've only been able to tick one off my list.

As always, I will keep you updated!