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/

No seriously, I’m an author!

Writer

No seriously, I'm a author

Had I known that telling people I’m an author came with the same barrage of predictable questions every single time, I might have had the foresight to arm myself with a recorded, automated response I could play every time someone asks…

And what do you do?

At this point I know I can look forward to at least one of the following questions;

  1. “An author? Really?” They might ask as they look at me with suspicious disbelief. Because aren’t real authors serious, intellectual, poetry musing people with neat little haircuts like Donna Tartt and fancy British accents?
  2. “An author, how lovely?” They say, while looking at me in a patronizing manner, as if they’re imagining some whimsical version of me sitting under a blossom tree at the bottom of an English country garden scribbling little notes in calligraphy on old bits of papyrus. “How sweet.
  3. They might then ask, “but how much money do you make writing books?” Because it’s perfectly ok to ask a person about their earnings. That’s not rude at all.
  4. “And what do you write?” They often ask. And when I reply with a, ‘mainly romantic comedies’ they reply with a knowing, “Oooohhh, I see!” Their suspicions about me have just been confirmed; because real writers don’t write romance. Undersexed, bored housewives with nothing better to do now that little Jimmy has left home write romance. “Oh, so you write books about greasy, shirtless fireman who save bare-breasted virgins from burning buildings and then shag them all the way into Sunday?”
  5. They may also start telling me about their brilliant idea for a book, the one they have been meaning to write for soooo long, but haven’t had any spare time. (It is also the worst idea in the world.)
  6. They often ask how I come up with the ideas? As if that’s an easy answer.
  7. Or they might ask me what else I do, since being an author is not a serious, real job, right?
  8. And then the most bizarre one by far, ‘What do you write, children’s books?’ (I suspect this question has more to do with my appearance than anything else.)

To avoid the inevitable tedium, I’ve debated the pros and cons of telling people that I’m either an undertaker or a hooker. I’m pretty sure that telling people you work with dead bodies all day over hors d’oeuvres is a conversation killer. Likewise, I’m sure that telling someone you stand on a street corner while doing the soccer mom run will also shut them up.

But,  of course, I don’t. So when asked what I do I shrug, I look wildly disinterested (I might even roll my eyes and make a tisking sound) and I mutter something or other under my breath about ‘working for myself’ and then I very quickly add a, “And what do you do?”

 

*Jo Watson is an award-winning author of romantic comedies. Her book Burning Moon is coming out in August this year and will be translated into French, German and Italian. Her books have been read over 18 Millions times online on Wattpad and she is represented my Erica Spellman of the Trident Media Group. You can pre-order her book here.

http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Moon-Jo-Watson-ebook/dp/B01ARXVTE0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1461057653&sr=8-1