I was chatting with a writer who's written the first draft of a novel. That's a huge accomplishment. Many writers begin novels, few finish. Although he completed the first draft last year, he hasn't looked at it since. He's too embarrassed. "It's bad, really bad", he said.
Yes, it possibly is, although I doubt that it's as "bad" as he thinks.
I told him it's meant to be bad. It's mud.
In this blog post, I talked about making mud.
Making mud/ laying track
Your first draft of any piece of work is "mud" -- raw material. Julia Cameron refers to your first draft as "laying track", another term I like.
If the first draft's awful, great! It's meant to be. It's only raw material. However, if you don't create the first draft, or you wait until you have a really great idea that's worth a first draft, you won't write anything. Write. Make mud.
Writing is a process. It's not typing.
Your first draft is a beginning. It's not the end. Every book you see on bookstore shelves has gone through many drafts.
The FUN of writing BEGINS after your first draft is complete.
Once you've written the draft, it will always be far removed from your original conception of the book. That's fine. You've got a chance to make the book better than your inspiration with your next draft, and the one after that.
Write about your book
When I'm coaching writers, their biggest challenge is knowing how to revise. There are many books which will show you how to revise your novel.
However, if you'll trust yourself, you'll be your own best guide through the revision process.
Talk to yourself on paper -- write about your book.
Try this. After you've completed your first draft, leave it for a week or two. When you return:
* Read the book straight through, without making any notes at all. You need to get a sense of what you have.
* Read the book and make notes.
* Go back to your blurb (short paragraph describing your book). Decide whether you want to stay with your original conception of the novel, or whether you want to write a new blurb.
* Outline the book, as it is.
* Focus on your characters. Do they change in the course of the book? Your primary character must change. We read to take part in your character's journey. Therefore, trace your character's arc. Every scene must contain conflict, and change.
You may find that in your first draft, your character doesn't change at all. So that's your first step in your second draft. Take your character on a journey of change.
Outline that change. Write the second draft.
Your second draft will be totally new. You'll be able to salvage some material from the first draft, but it will be a different, and better book.
Is that the end? Of course not. Start your third draft. In this draft, focus on other characters.
Your first draft is only a beginning. The first draft of your first book will show you that you have the courage to write a novel. Revising it will teach you how to write.
If you decide in the course of your second and third drafts that you're fed up, and want to write something else, go ahead and do that.
Your second book will be better, even in its first rough draft, than your first. No writing you do is ever wasted. Keep writing. You'll keep getting better, and you'll get published.
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