Happy After-Halloween! I hope you all handed out lots of chocolate and ate a fair amount yourself. With my current doctor-prescribed month of “avoid EVERYTHING that has soy in any way, shape, or form”, I did not participate in the snacking … yes, a very sad thing indeed *sigh*.
To distract myself from all the yumminess, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on the fourth draft of my novel (yes, I am going to call it that from now on … call it self-motivation). I am working chapter by chapter, and it’s a lot of fun to go over the text with a fine-to-medium tooth comb (“Comb the desert!”).
Here’s what struck me: How much of a far cry this draft is from the very first draft I put on paper. Forgive my language, but holy crap, the first draft now looks like a disaster zone, buried by an avalanche and blown to pieces by what I think may have been Pompeii’s demise. Well, as long as it does not rise as a First-Draft-Zombie and haunts me, I think I will be okay … right?
As much as it pains me to look at previous drafts, I have to say though that it reiterates a lesson that is a hard to learn and to remember (maybe the hardest one for a lot of writers, but certainly for me): No first draft is ever perfect, no matter how much you think it may be, and no matter how hard you work on making it perfect from the start. It won’t be. Trust me.
I was just talking to a friend of mine (also an aspiring author … and detective in real life, so that should be interesting) about this:
“How did you actually manage to get the whole story on paper?”
“I just wrote it all down.”
“Duh, I know THAT,” she said, “I meant how did you actually manage to not get stuck? Every time I sit down and write, I write a few sentences, maybe paragraphs, maybe even a scene or chapter, but then I go back and start to revise it, and never get any further.”
I know exactly what she meant. Each time I write something new (even this post), I have to force myself to just write down everything I want to convey first before going back and edit. Of course I go back to correct typos, replace a word here and there, but in general, I try to keep going until all the content that I want to include (or think I want to include anyway) is right there in front of me.
“For shorter things that may work,” she said, “but for a manuscript of over 100,000 words, that’s not easy!”
She’s right, it’s not. In fact, it’s hell.
So here’s what worked for me and my manuscript:
During each writing session, I wrote down as much as I wanted/could that day, and then I let it rest for a day.
Before starting a new chapter or scene (the next day or whenever I had time), I would briefly revisit what I had written during the previous session, just to make sure there were no major mess-ups in there (I would correct those if necessary), and then move on.
I used to be the type of person (well, still am I guess) that wanted her first draft to be perfect: college paper, blog post, article, editorial, does not matter … but I know it just won’t happen. The excuse “but I am a perfectionist” really does not fly here. You just have to re-train yourself and keep going, no matter how hard it may be. Take solace in the knowledge that with every draft, every revision, your story grows stronger and better, more intriguing and exciting. No matter how shocking it may be to look at the disaster zone you call your first draft, it’s a beautiful thing to see how your story has developed over time … and you -and your skills- with it!
And now please excuse me, I have to revise this blog post 🙂
P.S.: I actually considered posting the blog post with the revision mark-ups, but I wanted to spare you from getting a headache 🙂