Friday, April 09, 2021

Writing: The First Draft

I've published both contracted and self-published books, both fiction and non-fiction, and both novels and novellas (a distinction that seems artificial). And there's one aspect of all of them that requires writing: the dreaded first draft.

Ann Lamott talks about the "s****y first draft." Jim Bell writes about "writing fast, editing slow." Every author has their own way of doing things (for those that might be interested, I edit each preceding section before writing another, like Al Gansky), but no matter what method you use, it all starts with a first draft.

Lately, I've found myself revising over and over, still not fully satisfied with the premise and the way I express it. I've done this enough that I no longer fear "running out of soap," as one preacher of my acquaintance calls it. But I do want to make certain that every book fulfills two criteria--1) it tells how average people deal with their circumstances, either with God or without Him, and 2) it's the best work I can put my name to. 

But the first step, whether it takes a month or a year, is that first draft. As the refrigerator magnet sent me by my agent says, "First drafts don't have to be good. They just have to be written." What is your opinion?

4 comments:

Priscilla Bettis said...

I purposely don't expect my first drafts to be good. If I expect greatness in a first draft, then I get paralyzed and can't write. Things are fixable on rewrites.:-)

Richard Mabry said...

You've adjusted your expectations, Priscilla, which is good. That's a corollary of the axiom, "You can't edit a blank page." Get it down first, then get it right." That's one way to do it.

Patricia Bradley said...

Richard, all the time I'm writing that dreaded first draft (I actually have a friend who LOVES writing the first draft. lol), I tell myself that I can't edit what I haven't written.

And that's where I am now. Slogging through the first draft...

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, "slogging" is the right word, but sometimes I think the major difference between published and unpublished authors is that the former keep turning out first drafts and then revising them.