Writing a first draft should be similar to being a child on a playground.
Photo Credit: Greg Goebel
The Dilemma of writing a first draft
We all experience the same dilemma. We made the decision to sit down and finally write the book or story we have been wanting to for years. We start and carefully type out the first sentence. We read over it a few times only to realize just how bad it is.
What happens next is that we can’t seem to take our attention away from it. We delete it and write it anew or we tinker with it for some time.
This whole ordeal continues for some time. Then we write the next sentence and do it again. Once we have written the first paragraph we realize that the whole paragraph isn’t working at all. At one point we might delete everything and start anew completely. The end result: Frustration
Frustration taking hold
Believe me, I was there. When I started to write I’d do the above over and over again, only to close my word processor after an hour or two in frustration without saving anything.
My mistake was that I tried to get everything right the first time around. It was ridiculous to say the least. Looking back there are even a number of stories I never wrote, or never even started simply because of this. I got frustrated trying find the perfect beginning every single day. In time I either lost interest in the idea or got too frustrated. Of course I’d blame it on the story idea or I’d make excuses while I should cut my losses.
If you know these feelings yourself, then you probably understand what I felt back then. For a long time I asked myself what I was doing wrong. I wondered if I even was a writer. Everything I put down seemed boring, clichéd or simply bad.
The best advice for an aspiring writer
The fact is that if you try to get things right the first time around, you will never be able to write your story. Good old Hemingway said it best:
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
This is one of the best advice for young writers. Whatever you do and whatever you try, your first draft will always be bad. It is a simple fact. You can’t hope to get everything right the first time around. Instead you often have to edit, cut and rewrite your story multiple times until they are getting good or worth reading.
The playground analogy
What I am going to suggest here is to see the first draft as something similar to a playground. You are here to have fun. Think back to when you were a kid. What did you do? You were just running around and doing whatever you wanted to do.
You should put yourself into the same mindset when you are writing a first draft. Simply have fun and enjoy yourself. Put everything down on the page without thinking. I am serious, just put everything down that comes to your mind. If a character says something completely ridiculous or clichéd, let it happen and go on. Keep going.
The most important thing here is to write completely free and unrestrained.
As I said before most of what you write will be bad either way. So the focus should be on simply putting it all down.
The good bits and pieces
Going over a first draft can be painful, especially one that is written quickly and completely unrestrained. I have read certain clichés and expressions so many times in my own writing it makes my head hurt.
At times though, you can find bits and pieces that are really good, sometimes even great. It might not be more than a single line of dialogue or a short description, but it is something you can work with. It is something worth keeping.
To find those parts though, you had to put everything else down. You had to write all these bad lines to uncover the few good ones. It is only by writing as much as possible, freely and unrestrained that you got them.
Only on the playground could you hope to find them.