Posts Tagged ‘first drafts’

…a first draft.

(I  know, you were thinking of another ending, and, yes, you’re welcome for the ear bug I’ve now left you with.)

Part of the joy of letting a first draft flow is, well, letting it flow, and forcing yourself to just get to THE END. Because as we all know, you can’t have a second draft (or a third, or fourth, or…) until you have a first.

So that’s the good. Now for the bad.

Sometimes re-reading that first draft can be utterly crushing. Sure, there are some good parts–maybe even a high percentage of them–but much like the feeling you have after that second slice of cheesecake, the earlier, blissful sensation of anticipation is drowned in the all-too-real sensation of heartburn. You know you were enjoying yourself at one point, but that delight is gone.

Right now, I have acid reflux. Bigtime. The first few bites of my WIP tasted so good, I couldn’t stuff my face fast enough. Then came a hundred pages/bites in, and Ooof. I put down my fork, I sat back, I groaned.

What had happened?

And then I remembered, this is ALSO the good. You want to find those gaps, those breaks in the flow of your story/character, those albeit painful places where you need major work. Because that’s what makes your second draft your second draft.

I’m taking comfort in this fact as I read on. Comfort, and Tums.

What do you take to get through your first draft?

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The mighty first draft. We have such great expectations, don’t we? We all want perfection. We all imagine we will produce a manuscript that makes us smile, laugh, cry and cheer the first time around. After all, if we can’t get it down the first time, then it must not be our true vision, right? We must not be every bit the storyteller we imagine? Right?


Wrong. It just doesn’t work that way.

Well, not for me, at least. And I should know.  I’m fighting the first-draft-blues myself just now.

Now don’t get me wrong–my WIP is delightful, delicious and every bit as juicy as I hoped it would be when I first sank my teeth into it several months ago. But it’s not great. It’s flawed. Hugely flawed. And what’s more is I know it’s hugely flawed, even as I write, and write and write.

But you know what? It’s supposed to be. Because first drafts are supposed to need work. Lots of it.

Now the fall is a big birthday season in our house, so lately I’ve been thinking of story structure and development like a birthday cake.

Bear with me: You start with the basic cake. Say, a simple yellow sheet cake. This sheet cake is your first draft. It’s solid, it’s the foundation of your masterpiece, but it’s not nearly enough on its own. Still, it has to be a good cake or else all the decorations, all the buttercream roses or the piped scalloped edging or the Scooby Doo candles, will not make up for a bad tasting cake. (Not in our house, at least. )

Next is your crumb coat. Draft #2. This is your thin coat to keep those dastardly crumbs from rising to the surface of your beautiful finished product. Again, nothing too fancy or too involved. We’re still working on the foundation here. Evening out the sides, making sure we have clean corners, a nice flat top, etc.

Now with draft #3, we’re finally getting closer to the good stuff. We know we’ve got a strong base so we can begin to apply the final coat of frosting liberally, making sure the surface is the smoothest surface possible. Then, only when we have that smooth surface can we safely and confidently move on to…

Draft #4.The decorations. So get out those frosting bags and go for it. Put the finishing touches on that masterpiece, light those candles, and send it out to be enjoyed.

Now that’s not to say every manuscript will take 4 drafts. (I could have easily used the 14-tiered wedding cake for this analogy–I’ve baked those cakes too, if you know what I mean.) The point is that a first draft is just that. The first. Of many.

So shake off that crumb coat of self-doubt and cuticle-tearing-pressure and take comfort, as I do, that the point of a first draft is to simply get it down. A first draft doesn’t have to be beautiful or tidy or frankly even enjoyable. It just has to be done.

Then you can get to the good stuff.

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