Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Only A First Draft Mantra

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of awesome author/blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh. From Alex's blog, the purpose of the IWSG is "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

I've mentioned before that I don't sign up for many blogfests, but this is one I wanted to participate in right away. Why? Because we all could use a little support now and then. And who understands the insecurities that writers face better than the writing community?

And so here's my contribution this month.

One of the writing ailments I suffered from when I first started writing 3 years ago was the need to make my first draft perfect. I agonized over every sentence, every adjective, every image, scene, dialogue exchange. And while there's nothing wrong with setting the bar high it slowed...my...writing...way...way...down. My first two novel attempts lead to frustration when I reached a point of no return in my first draft. Perfectionism wasn't the only contributor. There were other reasons they met an early demise - poor planning, no direction, plot jam after plot jam.

With the novel I'm working on now, a third attempt, I'm trying to let go and let it flow. Taking an idea and running with it. Not caring if it sounds crappy. Not stopping even when a voice in the back of my head whispers, "This rots, you know." Some days I can shut off that voice, but other days it paralyzes my writing because I start to believe it. First drafts are hard for me and I get down on myself for not being able to finish one yet. I've been working on my current ms for over a year now but I'm determined to finish it.

Some days when I'm in that zone - you know the one - when every word, sentence, scene comes pouring out faster than I can scribble it down, writing is a joy. The satisfaction that comes from being in that zone is why I write. But other days when scenes feel forced, sentences sound choppy, and my MC is bland and boring I need to remember that it's only a first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect. That's what revisions are for.

Training my brain not to focus on the suckiness of my ms is hard. But what I've learned is that it's normal. Every writer experiences this at some point, even the published authors we look up to. The first draft is supposed to be craptastic. And so when I find myself loathing every word I write and wondering if it's all worth it, I use this little mantra to settle myself down. I put down my pencil, take a deep breath, and say to myself...

It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft.

Are first drafts easy for you?

To visit other participants in the Insecure Writer's Support Group, click the above link to Alex's blog and scroll down.


  1. And that's what NaNo is supposed to help with. Turning out the inner editor so we can just get the dang story down. When I did my own NaNo (since I hadn't found out about it in time to participate) my goal was just to see if I could actually complete a full-sized novel. And I did.

    Of course, I've been editing it for over a year, but it's also my learning project, so I don't feel too bad about that. My next projects should take less time.

    I hope.

  2. I'm not a fan of my first drafts either. And, while I like to edit, I get overwhelmed when I look at the work that needs to get done on a first draft. Thanks for the reminder that all writers go through some form of this.

  3. Hi Suzie, I've just discovered your blog because I am also insecure :-)

    I write my first drafts long hand, because I fall into the same trap as you if I do it straight onto the laptop. But with one extra caveat - I have to make sure there aren't too many large gaps on the right-hand margin. I edit my sentences to make them look neat!! I'm not sure if this aids or hinders my writing.

  4. I love writing first drafts--the ability to just write and not worry about problems--but that's also the reason I gnash my teeth over them. I hate leaving things unedited for long. :P

  5. I fall into that trap too--trying to make it perfect before anyone even sees it. Luckily I've got beta readers who are awesome enough to say "send me something, anything!" They're invaluable at helping me find plot holes before it's too late to fix them.

  6. I've definitely been guilty of this. It's tough to break out of that perfectionist mindset!

  7. I like first drafts - it's a good way of telling if my story is going to run out of steam, as so may do. Now plotting, and editing...