Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Happens In First Draft STAYS In First Draft

A bit more of a struggle this time out - I decided to try picking up where I left off with the probably-a-short-story. To see if this way of writing works for an ongoing project, rather than a one-off.

And it was harder than I expected to get back into it. I struggled to find the voice again - my voice in the story, and the voice of the protagonist. I couldn't quite do it.

I realized, finally, that I had to just accept the change. That's part and parcel of a first draft and, to quote yet another trite-sounding but fundamental principle of the process, "writing is re-writing."

Which doesn't mean that I'm thinking about editing and revising just yet. This is early innings, and I'm still focusing on just doing the writing. When, if I finish probably-a-short-story, I may find that it doesn't merit being rewritten and polished.

But for me, part of rebooting the writing process is remembering that not everything has to be perfect right from the get-go. That what matters right now is getting the words out of my head and onto the screen.

Excessive wordsmithing, especially while trying to get the first draft down, is a condition that I'm particularly susceptible to. Trying to strike a balance between moving forward and cleaning up after myself has been a struggle.

Which is why I decided to allow myself to move forward last night, ignoring inconsistencies in voice, infelicities in phrasing, and even jumping tenses several times within the same paragraph.

The result was awkward, jarring, riddled with mistakes basic and subtle. I'd never show it to anyone. But it was a result. I can rework, revise and polish later. It's okay. It's allowed. It's the point. Writing is re-writing.

Last night's total: 494 words.

2 comments:

Karol said...

Oh, I know! I'm working on a paper for school, and I have to keep reminding myself that it's only a draft and I can fix all the lousy bits later! But I keep forgetting that and it's impossible to move forward when you're worried that this or that transition doesn't quite work. Good for you for keeping on. You've been exceeding your word goal every session, too.

Stephen said...

Thanks, Karol!

Although I must admit, I lowballed a bit when I set my word goal. 250 words really isn't that much - it's only one single, double-spaced page of text.

I chose 250 words as a target for a couple of reasons.

First, I wanted to facilitate success, because I tend to get hung up worrying about failure.

Second, I suspected - still do - that after the honeymoon phase, sometime between the two week and one month mark, that I'm probably going to hit a wall. When that happens, it's going to be very important to have a record of success and an achievable goal, so I can motivate myself to keep moving.

Sometime before the end of the first month, I'm going to review and revise my goals. I'll probably up the word-count goal then.