The first draft of anything is shit.

The first draft of anything is shit-Ernest H

This is something I have to constantly tell myself when writing. Why? Because I am a painfully slow, pedantic, crazed perfectionist who can sit and obsess over a single word for hours. I cannot write a paragraph without reading over it at least three times, only then can I move on and write the next one.

I spend ages scanning the Thesaurus, determined to find a better word for almost everything I write. I reread sentences until the words no longer make sense and the sentence sounds like Russian. I read sentences out loud. I read sentences to my husband. I would read sentences to strangers if I didn’t fear being ushered off to a white padded room. I hate the idea that anything I write might be shit, or might not live up to the overly inflated standards I set for myself.

I recall one incident in particular that almost drove me nuts; I had started a new book a week ago. One that had a deadline attached to it. One that needed to find its way onto my agent and publisher’s desk at a certain date and time. But after a solid week of writing I was only 1, 943 words in, because I had probably reread and rewritten those 1, 943 words    1, 943 times. Now you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this is a huge problem, and I may indeed be in trouble if I carry on like this.  But I just can’t seem to help myself.

I’m built to obsess and fiddle. To worry and wake up in the middle of the night because I’ve thought of a better way to start a sentence. But I also know that in the long this is probably going to trip me up. It is going to wear me down and it will certainly drive me mad, not to mention everyone around me.

So to save myself from the inevitability of a straight jacket, I turned to the Internet for help, as one tends to do these days, and found some useful tips to writing your first draft.  They come from various sources and sage’s (but I do have to wonder how many of these wise people are actually authors?)

1.     Don’t edit as you write! This seemed to be the biggest consensus. Some people were even bold enough to suggest that if you aren’t able to articulate your idea properly in the moment, ‘simply put the vague idea in brackets and come back later.’ Brackets I ask you? Of all things holy in this world. (say something witty about the nature of brackets. nb, come back to this later)

2.     Don’t spend forever writing. Another very obvious one that came up often. “Sit, start where you stopped yesterday, and quit when it gets boring. The rest of the day is for the rest of your life.” What life? I thought writing was my life.

3.     “If you think of two different ways of saying something, write them both down and decide on the best one later.” As if! I thought of ten ways to say that better.

4.     “Suspend judgment when writing. Because that freedom opens you to the surprising stuff you never saw coming.” I found this one in a post by Writers Digest who are clearly not writers at all. Because if they were, they would know that it is biologically impossible for a writer to suspect judgment and self-doubt at any stage of their writing process. It just goes against our genetic make-up. A writer without judgment is clearly using strong, happy, mind-altering narcotics. (Can I get some?)

Will I try any of these? Probably not. I might obsess about not trying them though and drive myself a little madder in the process.

Some of this advice was taken directly from http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/12/how-to-write-your-books-first-draft-like-a-professional/

12 thoughts on “The first draft of anything is shit.

  1. This is an excellent article and I am basically in love with it. I agree wholeheartedly that first drafts are ridiculously horrible and should not be shared with anyone (including your editor). That seems to be my issue. I ride that intense creativity wave a little too far.

    Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. changed my life when i accepted the first draft was gonna suck no matter how much time I spent messing with it. I always thought I could cheat my way out of extensive edits. Instead I was taking years to write something that was awful and had no energy for the edits.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “(say something witty about the nature of brackets)” – hahaha 😀

    The best quote that has helped me is this one from John Steinbeck: “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” By trying so hard to be flawless, we end up stifling ourselves and creating worse work in the end.

    That’s not to say perfectionism is an easy thing to let go! But keeping that quote in my mind helps when the perfectionist demon is running amok.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve actually done number 3, but sometimes it is more than 2 and if it is I just come back to it later lol But the rest are really tough to follow. However, number 2 is very important. We do need to have a life outside of writing to even have something to write about;)

    Liked by 1 person

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