I have made a solid commitment to completing the first draft of my romantic fiction novel by the middle of February, 2015. Dear Lord! What have I done? Some days I’m ecstatic, fingers itching to get the keyboard. Most days it’s just Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard making the painful march towards my daily word count goal.
I’m a little over one third of the way to my word count goal and I gotta tell ya. This story SUCKS, but you know what? I’m ok with the suckitude. I’m learning that what matters is getting something, ANYTHING down on the damn page.
That doesn’t mean I don’t push myself, it just means I’m learning to be less of a perfectionist right out of the gate. I’m getting the words on paper so I can go back and edit them and make them better. Because without the first draft, there is no story to edit, there is nothing upon which to improve.
For now, I am doing my best to enjoy the process. The story meanders and the characters are alternately bland or excessively verbose, but I’m capturing it. All, while trying to heed the sage advice of my friend and fellow member of New Hampshire Romance Writer’s of America Susan Ann Wall, “Turn off the inner critic and just write!” *
That’s not to say I can ever completely mute my inner critic. She loves to remind me that I am a terrible writer. Rather than let her impede my progress, I paste on a smile and gently remind my inner critic, that she’ll get her chance to flaunt her brilliance and fix my mistakes later, but first, she must step aside and let me MAKE those mistakes.
I need to get back to my drafting, but before I go, I’m going to leave you with some thoughts on first drafts from some famous writers. I’m going to start with Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird. If you haven’t read this book, you must. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll become a better.
For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
Anne Lamott Bird by Bird
Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.
~From the movie Finding Forrester
I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them – without a thought about publication – and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.
I dread first drafts! I worry each day that it won’t come, that nothing will happen. – Judy Blume
*As an aside, another NHRWA member who shall remain nameless passed on advice she’d received “Write drunk.” It hasn’t come to that yet, but who knows what the future holds.
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.