Saturday, January 25, 2014

On First Drafts

Confession time: I'm doing it again. Neglecting this blog because I don't feel like what I have to say is worth sharing. Not a good habit for a writer, even one as erratic as myself.

The good news, though, is that I actually sat down and wrote a short story this week! It's about 3K in length, and it's awful. Really awful, in fact. But my first drafts always are, so I'm not overly concerned.

Some writers enjoy the first draft, with its freedom to let the imagination run rampant before later drafts start fussing over the details. Not me, though. First drafts are like pulling teeth for me. Something about a blank page (whether paper or pixels) just intimidates me to no end. I do better with revising. Though it's always a lot of work, and often quite a slog, I find it easier to reshape what's there into something better, something stronger. Creating it in the first place is scary stuff in my world.

As with everything, this brings me back to art. When I start a sketch, I block in the shapes very lightly, and very loosely. Often it bears very little resemblance to the finished (or idealized) product, and it's easy to get discouraged ("This looks like crap! I wasted how much time on this?") But subsequent passes refine each shape, making sure their proportions, placement, and relations to one another are right before I put in the details. This is how I think of my writing — each draft gets the big stuff into place until I start refining down the details.

In summary: "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." ~ James Michener

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