I don’t really have any authority here. Drafts are not something I’m particularly good at completing though I do have extensive experience with them. But lately, I’ve realized that they are a sticking point for me and they also be one for many aspiring writers. So here’s my take on drafts, be they first or seventh or thirtieth:
For me, the absolute worst thing about drafts, especially first drafts, is that they are bad.
Okay, that’s too vague.
What I mean is that, by their nature, pretty much the majority of any first draft will be terrible. They *have* to be bad in order for the polished writing to be pulled from it. No matter how hard you try, that first draft isn’t going to come out as a masterful piece of literature no matter how many times you delete, rewrite, delete, rewrite, delete, delete, delete…
And honestly, at that point, you’re self-editing whilst drafting which is, and this is something I have VAST experience in, a recipe for getting absolutely nowhere fast. I’ve written a lot of incomplete first drafts. A lot of different variations of the same chapters re-written to death because I’ll grow to hate them the more I meticulously edit and nitpick them until they are shelved completely and I begin questioning my overall worth as a writer.
Then a few months later, I’ll come back to the discarded words (sometimes) and the whole process will restart anew. And so on, and so forth. The well-worn rut continues to deepen.
I’m trying something new though, I’m trying to take the oft-repeated advice that so many accomplished writers have given: Just Write.
But it is not easy.
“Just Writing” requires a complete lack of obsessiveness over word choice and diction. It requires that not every passage smoothly transitions into the next. It requires next to no research and the generous use of placeholder text. All done for the sake of getting words out of your head and into a real-world format. It takes so much discipline to produce something that you know is absolutely unreadable in its current form.
But, as unreadable as any draft may be, the only thing less readable is… nothing at all. Aka, my writing career (or lack thereof) up to this point.
So this is where I’m at now with my current project, my novel or novella, or whatever it may end up being someday. I have a few composition notebooks and have figured out that each one can roughly hold about 40,000 sloppily written words. My goal is to fill two notebooks, flat-out, with writing, extensive margin notes, cross-outs, etc., before I even begin to think about any sort of editing process.
That is how I think drafting works. Or as close as I can get to it. This is uncharted territory for me. If anyone with experience in this matter has any advice, please, I’m open to anything at this point.