… a rough draft that is! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Some writers never even start the writing process because they are afraid at some level that their writing won’t be good enough. Other brave writers begin the writing process but then become mistakenly embarrassed by their rough draft and never work on it to make it better, and won’t even let their trusted editor look at it for them!
There’s just something about grabbing all that information in the stratosphere surrounding your brain and turning it into your first draft that cuts some crazy edges.
By the time your wonderful story makes it on the page it looks all… awful like.
And it can be quite disheartening.
You’re not alone in the rough. Even experienced, professional writers experience this. And there is a solution.
An example case
After talking with a client this last week I realized just how debilitating the first draft can be, especially if you have visions of grandeur. In this case, Jane we’ll call her, Jane has big plans for her book with JV partners already lined up. When speaking with her she told me she had written her first draft of her book very stream of consciousness — just sitting down and writing whatever came to mind, which isn’t a bad way to write — as she put it, and when she finished she was so embarrassed by it that she hasn’t worked on it for three years. Talk about a case of writer’s block! She believed it was so bad that she didn’t even want to show it to me.
Getting over your embarrassment
Just write! But it’s not that simple is it? I know it isn’t because this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about just writing your first draft, but it has continued to be, and I’m sure it will continue to be, an issue. I already have another article about this very topic in the drafts.
If it helps, many a writer gets frustrated with the rough draft. Stupid first drafts. Grumble, grumble…
For me I know my first draft usually isn’t going to be my best writing. My writing gets great in the rewrite. But before you can rewrite you have to write. I recently posted this on my Facebook page:
“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” ~Mark Victor Hansen
The first draft isn’t your one and only. This isn’t high school! The first draft is supposed to be rough, even dangerous around the edges. It’s suppose to be so terrible and so awfully brave that it jumps head first off Mount Everest without even folding itself into a proper paper airplane first.
Every rough draft can become a great final piece, a masterpiece, but you first have to put whatever is in that head of yours into the world so you can look at it! Let me let you in on a little writing secret that I “hinted” at earlier: most rough drafts are terrible! That’s the nature of the beast, and it’s okay. Don’t judge your story by what it is the first time, judge it by what it’s going to become: something incredibly awesome! Remember: don’t think of the first draft as your one and only. It’s a rough draft, so sharp it can cut you just by looking at it! That’s why you hire an editor! You might want to buy her a box of bandages though, just to be nice.
Besides all that, in all likelihood your story probably isn’t as bad as you think it is. We’re usually our own worst critic. Even if it is bad, you can always make it better. But remember you can’t make it better if it doesn’t exist at all!
By the way, Mark Victor Hansen, the guy I quoted earlier, is the cofounder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Does that tell you anything? If Mark Victor Hansen says it doesn’t have to be perfect to start and he co-created a million (is it billion now?) dollar industry, then it doesn’t have to be perfect to start! Boldness has genius and beauty in it.
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Action creates. Write! Make it rough. And when you find yourself paralyzed or at your end for self-editing, get yourself a great editor or writer coach who will help you through the writing process.
In the mean time, here’s…
Four things that will help you finish your first draft quicker and better:
- Make a quick outline of your story FIRST. This will help your stream of consciousness flow in all the right directions. The outline should include every chapter from beginning to end, the breakdown of each chapter, and their format. You can make it a bullet list or make a map. Whatever helps you visualize the story best.
- Now that the outline is written you’ll have an idea of how long your story will be. Now set a goal date to have your entire story written by. Break down how much you will need to write and schedule all the time you’ll need. Write your goal date on your calendar then post it to Facebook (you could even post it to my Facebook page!) or tweet your goal date. That will give you accountability. As you begin writing you can even post status updates like: “Killing the hero tonight? How will he ever save his love now?” Or, “Don’t bother me. The villain is busy.”
- Set a timer and have a word count goal within that time. For instance, try to write 1000 words in 30 minutes.
- Don’t judge. Just write. Allow your thoughts to flow. If something doesn’t sound all that great, instead of trying to fix it up just highlight it and make a comment like, “Fix this later.” Then either you or your editor can fix the problem during the editing phase.
What happened to Jane?
For those curious minds like mine let me tell you what happened to Jane. In this case Jane decided she wasn’t ready for an editor because she wanted to do a massive rewrite. So in lieu of an editor she hired me as her writer coach to give her some ideas in structuring her book before she began rewriting it. I talked her through some solutions and she scheduled time every day to write and then told me her goal date — which is written in my calendar. Once her new rough draft is complete we’ll begin the editing phase and then she’ll publish her book. Yeah!
Find some motivation that works for you
Whether it’s setting a goal date, giving yourself a no-judgement break, hiring a writer coach, or visualizing the possibilities, find what works for you and helps you write.
There are a hundred ways to skin a cat! What do you do when you’re not happy with your first draft or are having trouble getting through it? Let us know how you skin your first draft (Or does your rough draft skin your cat??) in the comments below.