On first drafts
It always makes me chuckle when a writer posts a photo of their computer screen showing the words ‘The End’ at the end of their manuscript, proclaiming that they have just finished writing their book. For most if not all writers this is only the beginning. The first draft is never the final one.
As a writer, I always hope that the first draft will be the only draft. I hope that the story and the characters will weave together like Joseph’s technicolour dreamcoat, without any holes or loose ends. Alas, writing life is not like that.As a writer, I always hope that the first draft will be the only draft. Alas, writing life is not like that. Click To Tweet
The first draft is the story being born, stretching its limbs and taking its first tentative steps. Later drafts then flesh out the form, build the strength of the story, the muscles needed to carry the reader all the way to the end.
I finish my first drafts and think, ‘Yep, all good, just needs a proofread and then we’re good to go.’ Months later, after wading through several more versions, the book is unrecognisable and I’m going, ‘oh God, what was I thinking? My first draft was terrible!’ The first draft is the child, the final draft is the adult with all the nuances and complexities that come with maturity.
One of the most challenging things I found about completing my first book was the knowledge that it would be the worst book I would ever write. It’s a hard fact of life but a truism: most of us get better the more we write, not worse. I agonised over my manuscript, thinking that the longer I worked on it, the less crap it would be. Yes, it’s true that multiple drafts helped shape it into a book I’m extremely proud of, but nothing can replace the fact that it’s still my first.One of the most challenging things I found about completing my first book, was the knowledge that it would be the worst book I would ever write. Click To Tweet
Personally, if I didn’t think what I had immediately just written was fab then I’d never write anything else. If I knew how bad my first drafts truly were, then I’d never have the strength to keep on writing. Luckily, this realisation of how bad they are only comes months down the line when it’s too late to stop and I can see a way forward. And then the more you write, the slightly better each new draft becomes.