From the Editor: The Joy of the First Draft

Vision 65

From the Editor:

The Joy of the First Draft


Lazette Gifford

Copyright © 2011, Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved



NaNo, my favorite writing event of the year, is only a month away. I'm busy getting bits and pieces of my stories together and having a great time preparing. I'll have even more fun when NaNo arrives. I love flying through first drafts -- living the story and moving with it at a speed I can't manage the rest of the year. I have to set a few days aside for NaNo and pretty much ignore everything else for a while. Then, when the world pushes back in, I still give a bit more than normal to writing for the rest of the month.


Not everyone has to love the insanity of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month -- for them to enjoy writing first drafts of their stories. They don't have to write quickly to enjoy them either.


What they do need is to accept that these are first drafts and do not have to be perfect. First drafts are for you alone. They are your way of writing out the obvious parts of your story so you can look back at the whole and see what needs to be changed and fixed.


Far too many people fear their first drafts. They get worried about every decision, every word and every punctuation mark that might not be exactly right. They dither over choices until nothing looks good. They don't let their imaginations run wild, which is the worst thing a person can do when writing first drafts. This is the place where you take chances, try something unusual and run with it. So what if it doesn't work out? It's the first draft. You can cut it. You can fix it. You can do anything you like, because a first draft is nothing more than a test run of your ideas. You are a long ways from showing it off to others.


Which means, of course, that you really shouldn't show brand new material around to many other people. They are not going to understand it. They'll tell you what's wrong before you can make an honest assessment of what's right and what you want from the story. First drafts are for you. Only after you go through and make obvious corrections and straighten out any wayward paths, should you show it to anyone else.


I know. You want to share your new pretty. You want people to urge you to go on because they want to read more. But remember -- every mistake you make in those first drafts are seen by readers who may decide by the time they've read a few chapters that you're just not a good writer. You've lost them as a future fan. And worse, they may tell their friends not to bother, who in turn tell other friends.


As a writer, you are judged by what you put up on the Internet for others to read.


And that means, if you are putting up first draft material, you are adding more pressure to the writing when it should just be fun. First drafts are for you and be very wary of putting up more than a snippet or two (and with full warning that it is first draft) when you are writing.


Which brings us back to NaNo. Remember, this is a first draft. More than that, it's a fast first draft. You are not aiming for perfection yet. All you want is a storyline with most of the material in place. Messed up some grammar? Got the tenses wrong in some places? You can fix it later. During NaNo, I've been known to start a novel in 3rd person and end it in 1st person POV, and then make the choice between the two later. Doesn't bother me at all because this is a first draft and time for experimentation.


Be open to changes and trying odd things in your first draft, whether you are doing NaNo or not. You never know where your imagination might take you if you free it from the pretense of first draft perfection.