The 5 Biggest First Draft Myths
First drafts are rife with mythology. Some myths apply mostly to new authors, others to even experienced veterans.
Here are the 5 biggest myths and how to bust them.
First Drafts are Final Drafts
Unless you are the divine author of a religious text, cough – not a chance -cough, then your first draft likely deserves some extra TLC.
New or beginning writers notoriously over exaggerate the state of their first drafts. To use a dating analogy, this is the honeymoon phase, where every word glows with artistic perfection, every sentence sings and your masterpiece seems destined for well-deserved glory.
Odds are, though, that the masterpiece is not yet ready for prime time. Few authors rattle out a final product on thier first try.
Besides, I think it was Hemmingway himself who said…
First Drafts are Crap
Well, he said something like that. There is a lot of truth to that statement, certainly more truth then the delusion of grandeur.
So if you have to choose a delusion, this one will probably serve you best. It’ll motivate you to put in the effort required to master the craft.
First drafts are the unfiltered selfies of the literary world.
The myth comes into play with the possible (and predictable) exaggeration of the statement. While first drafts are not final drafts, neither are they likely to be fully and fatally flawed.
Most stories have redeemable qualities that, through focused attention and insightful revision, can be enhanced to the level of publication.
Sure, some first drafts are worse than others. Beware, however, of descending into the deep darkness of despair over a less than stellar first draft.
A first draft is called a “first draft” based on the assumption of many drafts to follow. Each new draft holds the potential and the promise of elevating the story.
First Drafts are Fun
Ok, ok: this myth is arguable. Certainly there are periods of fun in writing or most people wouldn’t do it. At the same time, few novels are written in endless semantic ecstasy.
I have never heard of a (good, published) author that describes writing as pure enjoyment. Rather, writing is compared to bleeding, struggle, torture, excavation (Stephen King) and childbirth.
Childbirth isn’t a bad analogy — both involve pain, messes, screaming and joy.
First Drafts are Fixed
Sometimes the problem with first drafts isn’t so much the quality of prose as the contraction of ideas.
A challenge with forming any concept into a singular shape is that it is often difficult to come at it with a completely blank slate, reshaping it into something new and better, because that old original shape appears fixed, un-malleable.
The truth, though, is much different. The first draft is just one form of the story that has endless variations of character, setting, plot and direction.
First Drafts are First Drafts
If you’re staring blankly at this myth like you just got zapped by one of the Men in Black, rest assure, this is a real myth.
A first draft is most widely known as a first version of the story we want to tell, when in truth, you might not even know the story until you have written the idea out.
Even those who use an outline, known as plotters, may discover the story while putting pen to paper. In this way, writing becomes a journey of discovery, an excavation of ideas instead of a translation.
- Go into the art of writing assuming that you will need multiple drafts
- Discover what elements, setting and context best produces a flow state for you and then do your best to reproduce those elements every day. In this way, you will likely find more enjoyment in the daily exercise of writing.
- Realize upfront that at some point in your writing you will likely experience a dark, oppressive pall that shades everything in lifeless drudgery. Your work probably isn’t as bad as it seems in those moments so push through and you often find on the other side both a better draft and a deeper appreciation for your work.
- Never forget that anything on a page or screen can be changed, manipulated, deleted or replaced. You have endless options to make everything in your story different and better. You have complete freedom, you are the master of your literary universe and you can change anything at will.