Anne Lamott would be proud. She sang the benefits of writing a shitty first draft in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Well, I did it, Anne. Oh, yes, I did!
I’m going through my first draft now and it ain’t pretty.
I consolidated some characters part way through, so I have extras at the beginning. I’m worried my main character isn’t personable enough. There are dropped subplots and others I need to add, now that I know how the story ends. Inconsistencies. Lots of overwriting to purge. So on, and so forth, ad nauseum.
By the end of each day I want to throw it all in a pile and set fire to it.
Yet, I keep coming back.
Sometimes because my miserly self can’t let go of all the time, energy, dreams, and money it represents. Sometimes because I get better ideas as I sort through the muck. Also because, dammit, I’m going to finish this thing.
I keep hoping it shows I’m tenacious – tenacity is cool, ya know – but I sometimes wonder if it just proves I’m a masochist. (If it is, there’s a whole lot of others in it with me!)
Anyway, in case you’re interested, in Holly Lisle’s revision course we look at what we have to begin with, going through the elements one by one – theme, plot, character, setting, etc. What works and doesn’t work. What lives up to the promises we made in the story.
But we don’t change anything yet.
Crazy, right? I know! I feel like one of those slathering scary-fast movie zombies whose just caught the scent of fresh meat.
But others who’ve gone through the course say once you learn the process it goes quicker for subsequent projects. Some even find themselves remembering principles of the course as they write their next first drafts.
Lordy, I can’t wait to get to that point.
The thing is, with making decisions at this end, the chances are good I’ll only have to do one final type-in at the end. That sounds better than some writers I’ve heard of who go through draft after draft, each one revising a little more and a little more. After cogitating on that for a while, I decided if I did that it would probably discourage me to the point of giving up and torchin’ the thing.
So, I’ll stick with Holly. I trust her.
If you don’t mind, please tell me just how terrible your first draft was so I don’t feel so alone!