My Love/Hate Relationship with First Drafts

15th of November 2013.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” — Ernest Hemingway

I thought I would write this post in honour of NaNoWriMo. Also, you can read my whole NaNoWriMo novel in its entirety here, mistakes and all. Woo.

Gotta love the bluntness of that quote! But seriously, it’s true. At least from my own experiences, my first drafts are pretty dang awful. They’re very flawed and full of gaping plot holes. And I guess this is where the title comes in — because I do have a very love/hate relationship with first drafts.

I love them because they’re easy. Because I can sit down and not worry about whether it makes any sense or not, because I can write and write and write. Somehow, first drafts, for me, are almost liberating. I can sit down and do what I love most: write. I can go, “Typo?! Hah! Screw you, I’ll fix you later!” I don’t have to worry about small errors, or even plot holes. I can just write.

Yet on the other side of the scale — I hate them. I am a perfectionist. And worse, I am an impatient perfectionist. I need things to be perfect straight away, otherwise it drives me insane. And when I started writing, I realized that it’s not going to be perfect first try. I realized that I’m going to have to hack away at it, repairing part of it that were fixable, and completely ditching others. It’s taken me some time to understand this, but finally, I think I might be there. Even though it still frustrates me to no end.

The more that I write, I expect first drafts to become easier. And in a way, they do. Each time I write a novel I learn  more about how to develop complex characters; I learn more about writing in general. But they also get harder. Harder because I sit there, and I know they’re flawed, and I know it’s gonna need a heck of a lot of revision to get the novel to its potential. Every time I write a first draft, I say to myself, “All right, Kara. This time, I’m gonna get it perfect first try.” Predictably, that never works. After all, where is the fun in writing a perfect first draft? I love seeing one of my manuscripts getting better and better as time passes, as I figure out how to fix a plot hole, or as I realize a certain element of my novel isn’t working. Yeah, cutting part of your manuscript hurts, but it’s for the better.

What are your thoughts of first drafts?



One thought on “My Love/Hate Relationship with First Drafts

  1. Oh well. First drafts are hard, but I agree that you learn something very time you write a first draft. You learn more on the way. You learn not to have perfect characters. You learn to give them flaws. You learn what works and what doesn’t. You learn what’s logic. And I’d say, I improved from writing one first draft in six months, to writing one in two months. Even though the latest one just demanded a complete rewrite. :P

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