Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Drafts

First drafts are kind of amazing.

Imagine this: It’s like being given three hundred sheets of blank paper and told to fill them—daunting, overwhelming, and powerful all at once. You get to create. You get to mold and reshape and mold again. You get to know your characters, to thrust them into all kinds of trouble, and pull them back out again.

You get to make mistakes.

Here’s how I do it—I have a rough outline. Very rough. I usually imagine certain stand-out scenes and add those first. I move them around, try to see where they fit, and add more as I go. It actually takes me a while to get writing, but when I do, I wrap myself up in that world that I’ve created, into those blank sheets that are suddenly alive with color and emotion and people.

And I write outwards from that feeling of immersion, because it’s so exhilarating to feel the story as I write it.

And I can’t stress this enough: You get to make mistakes.

First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect. They aren’t even meant to be fun, really. They can be, of course, and they usually are. But what I really think first drafts are for is authorial enrichment. Learning who your characters are. What their story is. Sometimes what their story isn’t.

And I think, to some extent, first drafts help you learn a little about yourself. How you relate to this thing you’ve created. This beautiful, reckless thing. Because while it may not be ready to be seen by any eyes but yours, it’s all you. It’s you when you’re sick and tired. It’s you when you’re brilliant. It’s you when you’ve had the shittiest day at work or school and you want to quit everything—even the writing.

That first draft is imperfect and glorious. Embrace it.

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