~ by K. L. Schwengel
It’s an ugly beast.
Disjointed, and awkward, it has too many of some things and not enough of others. Parts of it seem half-formed, as though the power that created it left off too early or couldn’t figure out how to finish that particular appendage. Other parts of it shimmer with perfection, nearly flawless in their beauty. When it moves, it does so hesitantly in great lumbering strides. Then suddenly it surges ahead with all the speed and care of a juggernaut only to flop onto the ground, panting, uncertain of what to do next.
This is no mythical creature. No being drug from the depths of murky legend. This, my friends, is the dreaded First Draft.
Ah, yes, I can see by your expressions that some of you are quite familiar with this being. Perhaps you have your very own you are struggling with? Or have you recently bid one Finis! and tucked it in to sleep while you prepare the shredding tools?
In all the long process of writing, the First Draft, for this writer at least, is the most difficult part. Getting from, “It was a dark and stormy night,” to “The End” is a long, torturous journey for me. Mostly because I suffer from incurable rewriteritess. I want every word on the page to be perfect. To glisten like a polished sword slicing through the low mist of early morning. I can’t tolerate plot holes. Little details make me squirm as though someone has put tacks on my chair. Fighting with my characters makes me cranky.
But if I gave in to all that (which I have) I would never get anything done. I would work on the same handful of chapters over and over (which I have). So, how do I get over my rewriteritess and forge ahead?
So glad you asked! Here are my tricks:
- I repeat to myself: You can’t edit a blank page. I can’t take credit for that quote, but don’t remember who can. Regardless, I intend to put that above my monitor. And if you just keep editing the same pages over and over you’ll never get to Finis!
- If I get really and truly stuck I do this: [Just keep writing and fill this in later] Seriously. There are such bracketed notes all throughout my first drafts of late. Just keep writing, just keep writing . . . who else is hearing Dori?
- I mention it to my writer pals, and they kick me in the arse.
- My husband asks, “How’s the book coming?” I reply, “I’m stuck.” He says, “Just keep going.”
- I remind myself that the First Draft is allowed to suck. That’s truly its purpose. It can’t rise above and become a polished gem until it gets rough cut first. Even when I paint, my pictures invariably go through what I term The Ugly Stage. I don’t show them to anyone during that phase. They’re horrid. I’m working things out — colors, details, placement — and only after The Ugly Stage can I begin to fine tune them.
- I tell myself no one is ever going to read the First Draft. It is for my eyes only. It doesn’t matter if I’m passive, use too many adverbs, or left a participle dangling somewhere, because once the beast is whole, I can fix those issues. I can smooth and massage and tweak to my heart’s content. But you cannot tweak an unfinished beast.
So, what tricks do you have to forge ahead in your First Draft?