I woke up early today to work on the short story I hope to submit to a writing contest soon. I finished the first draft after writing a post called Behind “The Process”: Get It over With (Writing First Drafts) for self-encouragement. Now that I’ve finished the first draft, I’d like to share:
First drafts are messy, private affairs. Most writers won’t ever let you see their first drafts. I rarely show my wife, even.
So here’s the breakdown for this post. The first four steps are a bit of a recap from the post about writing first drafts, if you haven’t seen it already:
Let’s take a minute and break those things down, shall we. We shan’t? Well I say we shall. Pressing on!
You should write by hand when you are in the early creative phase. I say it a lot. Even wrote not one, but two posts about it (Writing by HAND vs Typing & Why EVERYONE Should Write by Hand). So I’ll save you the long explanations here–write by hand. Just do it. Way less distracting than typing.
As I said in Get It over With (Writing First Drafts), at least I think I did (even if I didn’t, my podcast writer-guests say the same!), you should write that first draft quickly. Don’t spend too much time thinking. Just get a solid base–beginning, middle, end. That’s it. Don’t worry about anything else. Yet…
Several times while I was writing, I got upset over writing such terrible horses**t. As a younger writer, I would’ve simply stopped, ripped off the page and wrote something else. But writers must see their first drafts all the way through!
I forced myself through writing terrible nightmare scenes that were embarrassingly mild for something that’s supposed to be slightly disturbing. But I pressed on, because the ensuing action mattered more. As much as I wanted to stop and get that scene just right before going on, I didn’t. Not necessary.
Fix it later, it’s a finer detail. Keep pushing. Beginning. Middle. End. Don’t worry about the in-betweens.
I did. And the end result was that:
It does. The beginning in particular was difficult to reread. Not actually difficult, because I’m used to reading first drafts now, but difficult in a sense of, Oh boy, this thing has a ways to go, type of thing. Kind of like shame, but hypothetical shame. Like, If anyone ever saw this, they’d take my writer card away.
But first drafts are top secret, for-your-eyes-only. They’re almost more of a chore, compared to the rest of the process.
Neil Gaiman, as usual, says it best:
“The second draft is where the fun is. In a first draft, you…get it down on paper, somehow. Battle through the laziness and the not-enough-time and the this-is-rubbish and everything else, and just get it written.”www.neilgaiman.com, 5/11/2008
So don’t worry about how much it sucks. Be happy that you finished the sucky thing. Then you can move on to the next part of “The Process”, which is making it not suck. Or, again, as Neil says about second drafts:
“Anything you do can be fixed.”
“This is where I make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.”Neil Gaiman interviewed by Tim Feriss, 3/28/2019
I don’t know about you, but knowing that even greats like Neil friggin Gaiman (I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty certain that’s his middle name) are swinging blindly that first go around, feeling all kinds of negativity about their draft, helps my mental state when I’m questioning my very being in the early stages.
And with that in mind, looking at my sh**ty first draft, I can honestly say…
If you finish a draft, you’re doing better than, I don’t know…82.6% of people who “have a story in them” but never write it out all the way. Celebrate it. Not by showing it to people, but, ya know, have a drink, make yourself an omelet with all the fixins. However you celebrate the little things, go do something that let’s you relax and enjoy your creative accomplishment. Sh**ty as it may be; it’s the beginning of something bigger and better. But you can’t stop there.
Yes, yes. I was happy with it.
Then I started the second draft!
For me, the second draft looks like this:
Slowly but surely, friends, this new thing will be ready for the world. As ready as I can get it, anyway. We’ll see how the world reacts….
So, people of quality, if you’re struggling to finish a first draft, check out the last post. And remember, the first draft is supposed to suck. At least a little. Good writers are masters of The Process, not masters of nailing the very first time out.
Thanks for reading! Please, I implore you, check out my website, follow me and say hi on social media (my Instagram is pretty cool, is yours?), and give my podcast, Creative Ops, a listen. I’ve interviewed an Academy Award winning visual effects artist, a High Times Cannabis Cup gold medalist grower, best-selling authors, business owners, musicians, and more!
For the last time–don’t beat yourself up too much on your first draft. The first draft’s just the part before the real fun begins. It’s your invitation to the party.
See ya there!
Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? HIGH FIVE!