First Drafts And Thick Skins

Hello again and Happy 2013!

As I write this blog, I’m sitting under the shade of a Gum tree. Its leaves are shaking in a light breeze, rustling like a distant stream. I’ve no phone reception. No Internet connection. The children have vanished to some remote corner of the park. My husband is floating out at sea on his surfboard, feet dangling to the sharks.

This must be heaven.

To post this blog, I’ll need to hike up the hill to the tower, stretch the laptop above my head and plead for a signal. I haven’t figured out how I’ll navigate the keyboard yet, so it could be a miracle if this even gets to you.

I’m so close to finishing the first draft of my novel my fingers are tingling. I say first draft but, to be honest with you, I’ve already revisited many parts (secretly, soundlessly, tail between legs), for many writers will tell you to keep pushing ahead with your first draft and don’t look back until it’s finished. Whilst I’ve kept this advice close, I haven’t followed it entirely. As the book’s evolved, I’ve changed much of the plot and even wiped out one of the major characters, so I’ve found myself drafting and redrafting as new things come to light and major elements change.

Now, I’m really excited. I have a clear understanding of what the story is about and who the characters are. The framework feels strong, I just have to breath the magic inside – to shape it, colour it and make it whole.

Sometimes, reading over what might have taken months if not years to write can be daunting to say the least. We have to prepare ourselves for the parts that are bad – really bad. When we wrote them we were probably in full swing, basking in our creative genius, smelling the imminence of our success (perhaps enjoying a glass or two…). Yet we shouldn’t get disheartened. Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘The first draft of anything is shit’.  James Michener, ‘I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.’

So perhaps we have to give ourselves permission to let the first draft stink. Forget about what people will think – we don’t have to show it to anyone until we’re ready – and let our fingers flow on our keyboards like pianists’.

Elizabeth Sims mentions in a piece she wrote,Why does a coherent first draft give birth to a stilted finished product? Because it means you haven’t let it flow. You haven’t given yourself permission to make mistakes because you haven’t forgiven yourself for past ones. Admit it: Unless your throttle’s wide open, you’re not giving it everything you’ve got.’ I found the article helpful – to read it in full click here

Right now, I’m feeling proud and excited about what I’ve achieved so far – It’s a liberating stage of writing. Soon, I’ll be ready for a professional edit and I’ve no doubt that what comes back will peel another layer of my skin away – but it’s tougher and thicker than it used to be…

How do you get through your first draft?

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6 Comments

Filed under Editing, First Drafts, Getting Published, The Publishing Industry, WritingTips

6 responses to “First Drafts And Thick Skins

  1. Hey, Gemma, I’m glad my article sparked your interest! Thanks for mentioning it, and best wishes to you and your writing in 2013.

  2. Hi Gemma. Is it finished yet? 🙂

    I completed my very first first draft just before Christmas, so I know exactly how you feel. Of course, my first draft is more of draft 0.5 than draft 1 and there is so much more work to do, so I think you’ll beat me to the editor by a good six months 🙂

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