Falling In Lust With Our First Draft (Or, What Not To Do On A First Date)
Some time ago I posted about Revision [read post here]. Since that time, I’ve had the privilege to speak
with dozens of authors about the revision process, revision techniques, and
more. As recently as this past weekend, I spoke at theYour Best Book workshop about Robust Revision – and all this talk
about revision has gotten me thinking about first drafts.And this has gotten me thinking about first
dates…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Writing is a process of discovery and we don’t always produce our best
writing when we first get started on a book.The first draft is the time to shout “Yes! Yes!” to our ideas and write HOT—write
with passion, write with abandon, let it all bubble out there onto the page, don’t
play it safe in any way. Then comes a cooling off period…the time when we must step
away from the writing and the work for a little while. And then, when it comes
time to revise, we will be able to write with a cooler head. Revision is the chance
to look critically at what we’ve written to see: if it’s really worth saying; if
it says what we meant to say; if a reader will understand what we’re saying;
and if a reader will feel want we want them to feel. But before that we need to write HOT.
The hottest moments of our work is the getting it all down in a messy,
sprawling first draft. The passion. The “Yes! Yes!” The hot mess. Whether a
planner or a panster, however writers get that first draft down is fine. It
takes a lot of courage to get something down on paper at all, and what I hope authors
will embrace is the notion of writing without revision in first drafts—writing with abandon! There will
be plenty of time later for the inner editor to get to work, for the critical
eye to start seeing all the faults, for the lights to go on, for the rearranging and reorganizing, for
the make-up and polishing.
That time of great intensity and heat is a precious time for an
author and their work—and really the only time in the writing process where we
can feel free to do whatever we want to do. So do it! Don’t stop. Don’t edit.
Don’t think too much. Just go for it.
OK, so we’re in the heat of passion with our
first draft—it’s a lustful, expressive, passionate tangle between a writer and
the work.“Yes! Yes!” But…
…as most teenagers will tell you, the very worst
thing that can happen in a heated make-out session on a first date is when
someone whispers, “I think I’m in love with you.”
And that heat index suddenly goes down…
Come on, admit it. I’m right, right?
In the context of writing first drafts, I am a
huge proponent of being as insatiably lustful as possible—with words, with
ideas, with characters, with scenes, with situations, with drama, with
dialogue, with settings, with STORY.And
I caution all writers to approach the writing of first drafts in lust, not in love.And here’s why: Falling in love too soon with what we've written
willabsolutely prevent us from being
critical and willing to change it.
If we fall in love too soon with what we’ve written, we will
be far too hesitant to change it even if we know it’s not that great. Butstaying in lust with a first draft? That’s
more like being on a hot first date with our writing—and that way we can stay
open to finding out more about what we’re writing, seeing if we’re really
compatible. And we won’t feel guilty for playing the field and chasing other ideas to determine if a new and better story idea comes along, so we can dump
the old one without a second thought.
With a first draft, we need to be as ruthlessly
lustful as we want—because it will all be over soon enough! And then the
necessary period of cooling off can begin. (Because, face it, so much literary
lusting can be exhausting and we need to rest and clear our heads.) And the process of revision can commence. And
that’s when the falling in love happens.