Thursday, January 13, 2011

First drafts - crazy pieces of lovely

First drafts are crazy. One minute they're brilliant and the next minute they suck. One paragraph reads like a literary star, while the very next reads like a brain fart. But first drafts are important, and I've decided to view them as an intriguing and fun part of the process, because that's what they are.

First drafts are all about exploration and discovery. That's pretty exciting, really. It's a time for getting to know characters, not controlling them. It's a time for figuring out plot, not manipulating it, even if you've done an extensive outline. Outlines are guides, not rules.

The problem with first drafts isn't crappy writing, that's to be expected. The trouble comes when our internal editors try to push themselves into the picture too soon. First drafts are no place for these high-collared librarian parts of ourselves. They're made for the polka dot wearing hula hoop dancing free spirit parts, the parts that think purple smells lovely and perfume feels like silk. Yes, that place where there are no limits, no editors, no fears. First drafts are a place to be free. Why not throw in a few freaky, funky  things, just to see how it looks when you go back later with Ms. (or Mr.) editor in toe. Maybe it'll turn out to be just what the story needed to take it to that higher place you've been reaching for.

When I find my internal editor sneaking in to have a peek at what I'm doing with a first draft, I explain to her that I'm not finished... so scram. I reassure her that whatever I write in a first draft can always be changed. I remind her we are going to rewrite the story at least a few times and I'm more than willing to let her pick out the impurities.  And last but not least, I tell her that even though she doesn't belong in the first draft, I value her, because we do end up needing those editors that are so pesky in the beginning. 

Once the editor in my brain is satisfied to leave me alone, I no longer feel sucky when I write like crap, because it's just a first draft. It's just getting it down, producing the clay for the sculpting, because we writers have to come up with everything, you know. We have to create our own medium before we can begin to form it. From our minds we make entire worlds. But every world needs a foundation, some soil to begin with. That's what a first draft is: it's the clay.

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