Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The first draft sux

It's true. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the first draft SUX.

Stephen King says he never shows anyone his first draft. In Bird by Bird Anne Lamont says her first draft is always crap. Geof Miller (instructor at University of Washington) always told us DARE TO BE BAD. You have to, otherwise you'll never write a word.

I have to keep repeating this because people keep bringing it up and thinking they are doing something wrong. CREATION IS MESSY.

Just GET IT DOWN and tweak with it later. If you were sewing a dress, you'd start with a humougous bolt of material. It doesn't look like anything. But by using your tools and skills (or following instructions if you have no sewing skills), you eventually make a dress. Your first dress might not be a fashion statement, but when it's finally wearable, you'll be proud. And then you'll make another one and it will be even better...

If you want to go on believing that every successful author popped out of the womb fully formed and every time he or she pens a word it emerges perfect and precise... go right ahead. I just don't think it will serve you very much.

One of my students at VFS found this quote from Hemingway, which I think is brilliant:

It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.



more4dan said...

Thank you for the reminder. I'll remember that when I get to the first draft stage! Meanwhile, I'm starting four weeks behind the rest of you. I just read the "preparation assignment" and posted my "promise."

I'm taking it easy on myself and only promising 3 days per week.

Esther said...

i love that! that's awesome! i find that i have to keep reminding myself of this--and everytime i read somebody else's thoughts on it (that the first draft sucks) it always sparks this familiar mini-epiphany in me. thanks for the reminder and the encouragement! :3

OpenChannel said...

Yay for epiphanies!

I have to remind myself, too, actually. Even after all these years.

All we see when we read a brilliant book is the finished product. We don't see the tear-soaked (and coffee stained) notebook. We don't see the X outs and scribbles. We don't see the crumpled bits of paper on the floor.

Did you know that Stephen King was so frustrated with his manuscript Carrie that he dumped it in the trash? His wife dug it out, read it, and told him he had to finish it. The rest is history...