"I'm increasingly convinced that while no great book can be written in a month, no great book can be written in a first draft no matter how long it takes you to write it." – John Green
|Photo credit: Truthout.org on Flickr|
With NaNoWriMo in full swing, a lot of you are writing first drafts.
Getting the first draft down is, in many ways, the best and worst part of writing.
Most writers love getting the first draft down for many reasons— the discovery for example, of a new world, of new characters and situations and creating a universe that until that moment didn't exist is mesmerizing. Or that moment when you really get in the zone and the writing just flows— incredible.
But writers often hate writing the first draft, too— it just depends what day you ask them, because writing a first draft is hard. Sometimes you get stuck and getting even a single word out is about as painful as repeatedly watching a Teletubbies episode with your eyes taped open.
Then there's the moment when you realize everything you've written sucks. Sometimes it hits you half-way through, sometimes before that and sometimes after you've completed the whole thing— but most writers will reach a point where it occurs to them that this sparkly first draft isn't so sparkly after all. It sounded great in your head— why doesn't it feel like it on the page?
Truth is guys, writing the first draft is hard, and oftentimes it doesn't come out anything like the way you imagined. Your first draft can feel like a disappointment, like you've somehow let yourself (and your future readers) down by writing this terrible drivel and calling it a novel. Sometimes the doubt and disappointment is so intense that writers feel like giving up.
Don't do it.
Guess what? 9/10 times your first draft is going to suck. What's worse is that feeling isn't going to go away— it doesn't matter if it's your first novel or your fifth, writers are notoriously unhappy with their first drafts.
Don't believe me? That John Green quote up there comes from this amusing and informative video on NaNoWriMo— you should check it out:
In case you don't watch it though, he makes another great point about writing first drafts:
"…if you want to think about it like sculpture, writing a first draft is like digging the clay out of the ground and revision is when you actually use the clay to like, build something that you like."
And my last gem from the video:
"What NaNoWriMo does for writers young and old, is give us permission to suck. So NaNoWriMo forces you to be disciplined and it gives you permission to suck, which are two of the things you most need if you're going to be a novelist."
So yes, first draft writing often sucks, especially when we can't stand what we've written so far, but guess what? It's ok, in fact, it's even to be expected.
And John Green isn’t the only one who thinks so—Tahereh Mafi posted a while ago about not being afraid to write a bad book.
If writing is hard, then writing the first draft is excruciatingly difficult— but don't worry about writing poorly. Right now you're just digging up the clay. The masterpiece will emerge in revision.
First draft writing is pretty big right now with NaNoWriMo— tell us your first draft writing experience (past or present). What do you love and hate about getting the first draft down?