FULL, FAST & FLAWED
Like a sketch or a thumbnail drawing, first drafts are just something to have on the page, like a placeholder, as you find your way. You have a general idea of what the story looks like, so you make a sketch that will need to be honed and defined and redrawn — most likely many times — before it goes to print. If you try to bypass the loose, crappy-looking sketch and skip directly to the perfect picture from the get-go, the end result when you finish (if you ever finish) will be a stiff and lifeless piece of junk. Instead of starting with crap and ending with something nice, you start with a nice idea and end up with crap. (Irony. Ha!)
So, how do we keep our writing loose and “sketchy”? I recommend writing FULL, FAST & FLAWED.
Write a full first draft, meaning the entire story from beginning to end. Often, when we start out, we don’t know what we really want to say. We have ideas but it takes running the gauntlet of the full story, facing the challenges of each act to know if what we thought we wanted to say is what we really want to say in the end. Sometimes your characters will say something you didn’t expect during the final moments of the story and change the meaning of the entire piece. So, be ready for it. Write a FULL first draft.
Write the FULL first draft as FAST as you can. When we start writing a story, there’s a lot of excitement. The thrill of adventure! Where will this take us? But somewhere along the way, it lags, slows and becomes daunting. Often, this is because we come across a problem or a story hole and we seize up, wanting to make the “right” decision before moving forward. This can lead to nit-picking, or worse: The First Chapter Syndrome (more on that in a moment).
By letting ourselves seize up, we don’t finish a FULL first draft, which means we don’t really know what we want to say because the entire thing could change. So all that nit-picking could go in the trash. All the while, your excitement wanes, you experience frustration when you can’t find “perfection,” your energy drops, the project takes longer and longer and eventually it ends up in a drawer or in the trash, unfinished and unsung. Don’t let that tragic ending befall your story.
But how? How do we keep writing FAST when we reach a story problem? Answer…
Let your first draft be FLAWED. In fact, let it be the worst writing you’ve ever done. It’s okay. You know why? You can go back and fix it once you know what needs to be fixed. Much like the process of idea generating, the first draft is about getting out of your own way and letting all the “bad” writing out of your system. Being willing to write bad dialogue and clichés will help get a FULL draft done, FAST. Once it’s on the page, you can hone it and make it better – once you own it, you can hone it.
If it so happens you accidentally wrote well, great! And if it’s the worst piece of writing to have ever existed, that’s also great because that’s what we were trying to do. Success!
I hope that helps!