This post originally aired on 11-06-2008, and I thought a reminder that we can write garbage in our first drafts would be helpful. Getting it right the first time is rare indeed. Think about this as you head into the New Year.
Writing is a talent, a dream, an obsession, a release, a thrill, but it is also a craft. The words don't just magically appear on paper - all arranged at their finest. The words we love to read were painstakingly crafted by the author, paragraph by paragraph, line by line.
Anne Lamott, a wonderful writer describes the process in her book, Bird by Bird, this way: “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts."
“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”
What wonderful advice. No wonder her books are so good.
A book can go through as many drafts as necessary, and every author has his or her own method of getting to the finished manuscript. The following suggestions are not RULES. Do what works best for you.
The first draft - get the story down from beginning to end. Some people like to edit as they go, and if that works for you, great. Others, like Ms. Lamott, prefer to get the story down, then go back to edit, and I am in that camp, too. I may do a little editing of two or three pages, just to jump-start the writing the next day, but I don’t go to far back. Fine-tuning can sometimes be just an excuse to avoid going forward.
A hint I picked up a long time ago is to stop writing in the middle of a scene. That gives you something to work on right away the next time you sit down to write, and often the next scene will flow naturally out of the one you are working on.
More about the second draft when I post again. In the meantime, have fun playing with your characters.