Throughout grade school and college, I didn’t understand the need for a first draft. I figured if you did it right the first time, it would be your only draft. Because of that, I would write and edit simultaneously. That worked out fine. Until I started writing novels that is.
Before I started writing Madness, I spent at least six months before that working on another novel called Crash and Burn. Just like everything else I had written before it, I was editing as I went. But it wasn’t going anywhere. It didn’t feel right. So when Nanowrimo came and I got the idea for Madness, I put Crash and Burn l on the back burner and embarked on a new journey.
Those of you who have ever participated in Nanowrimo know that there is ABSOLUTELY no room for your inner editor. If you picked apart every line you wrote, you would never complete your novel in 30 days. So I wrote day in and day out without changing anything. When I was finished and read the final result a few weeks later, I knew I had something special. Although it needed a lot of work, it felt right and seemed natural. At that moment I finally realized why having a first draft is so special and important.
Although you may want to aim for perfection on the first try, sometimes it just isn’t possible. You may get a better idea or you may have forgotten a detail or two. You may need to delete or change a paragraph. Do you know how many changes this blog post has gone through? A lot. And that’s okay. Because your first draft isn’t meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be raw and messy. And honestly, the messier and more unfiltered it is, the more rewarding the outcome will be.
Think of your first draft as a foundation. Without a foundation, what would a house have to support it? Nothing. It would just fall apart. The same rule applies to writing. Your first draft is what will you build on to make a wonderful work of art.
The most important thing to remember about a first draft is that no one else has to read it!! There’s no rule stating that you have to show your first draft to anyone so don’t sweat it if your first draft isn’t perfect. If you’re not showing it to anyone, then why worry about it?
Ernest Hemingway said the first draft of anything is shit, but I think that’s kind of negative. I get what he means, but you should think of your first draft as something more than shit, trash or puke. After all, is anything ever really perfect? Even Shakespeare got shitty reviews from time to time. Even Hemingway himself wrote first drafts and someone probably thought they were shitty. Instead, think of your first draft as a stepping stone to something wonderful.
Now get writing!