Getting that first draft done!
“I believe the first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months.”
Stephen King – On Writing
That dreaded first draft.
The first version of your idea, that should stream out of your head on onto paper (or screen), turning your story idea into an actual story. Writing it down will fill you with an incredible sense of accomplishment, combined with a feeling of utter relief. This thing that has been residing in your brain-space, just dying to get out and become something real. These special words that will flow out into print, as perfect as you imagine them to be in your head.
Crappy is OK
Alas, it’s not to be. The truth you need to know, and accept, is that the first draft of anything you write will more than likely be quite crappy. The important thing you now need to know is that that’s OK, and probably how it’s meant to be.
Expecting too much from your first draft, is nothing more than inexperience. This draft is for your eyes only, and it’s only a starting point that will evolve, and improve, over time. Even the greatest of writers admit that their first drafts are far from the work that they know they will end up with. This initial draft is something that they would never, ever share with anyone.
Keep the door closed
Stephen King explains the first draft as “writing with the door closed”, and that this version he is writing only for himself.
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”
Stephen King – On Writing
The only job of the first draft is to get the story down, from beginning to end as quickly as you can. There is plenty of time for editing later, now is the time to just write.
The second you give in to temptation and go back to start reading what you have written, you will feel the incredible need to revise and improve on the words you have used. This feeling needs to be squashed, and you need to move on.
Momentum is the secret to getting the story down. Reading, editing and revising will kill momentum in its tracks, as surely as checking the TV guide or reading your email.
You need to go into this knowing, that at this stage, writing quickly is more important than writing well. Expanding on ideas, filling in plot holes and fixing vocabulary will all happen in good time. The second, third and forth drafts give you the opportunity for perfection.
The system of writing down the complete first draft before going back and re-reading, editing and revising, of course can be modified. Some authors, such as Australia’s Kate Forsyth, and even Ernest Hemingway, always read and edit their previous days work before continuing on with the story. This technique reminds them of where they are up to in their story, and makes it easy to move forward.
You’ll get there your own way
The first draft will be painful at times, and joyful at times. The words will come pouring out easily one day, just to find that the next day you need to struggle and suffer for each and every word that you eventually drag out.
If writing is what you are meant to do, or even if it’s just what you want to do, enjoy the journey as best you can. Finish what you started, and you will see, that it will be worth it in the end.