I want to share something that resonated with me today, something that I am only now starting to really get over and come to terms with, and accept, and realize that it’s okay: to have multiple drafts.

I think I’ve made reference to this before… I think I cribbed some advice before from David Hewson’s site that touches on a similar vein, but as we are now in the last third of NaNoWriMo for 2012, I think this is something to bear in mind (besides, you know, “It’s okay to suck” or “It’s okay to have a shitty first draft”)…

This note on drafting comes from Steven Pressfield’s site:

The axiom is: You can’t do everything in one draft.

The corollary: Pick one aim for each draft and do that only.

In NaNo terms, the first draft is throwing everything and anything against the walls to see what sticks. Ninjas? Fire Wombats? Dancing girls? Fire Eaters? Muscle-men? Contortionists? (right, cue “Spectacular, Spectacular” from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and keep on going)

There was a bit of business advice I was given once, in a mentor-based situation: “Go Out. Get busy. Make a mess.” In business, it was so the mentor could then come in a then use the act of cleaning up said “mess” as a way of teaching how to do the same in the future… in writing, it’s the (shitty) first draft.

Then, as Pressfield suggests, each pass through the document the goal would be to focus on fixing a specific element. Rinse and repeat for however many things you might want (or need) to work on. But this approach assumes you have plowed through to the end with no imminent concern about maintaining 100% coherency, as with NaNo (I mean, really… Can-Can dancing fire wombat ninjas? Really?). 

Contrast this idea with what Hewson had described (an almost cyclical approach) where you spend a day writing. The next day, you go back over the previous day’s pages – getting back into the story, but tweaking some as you go – then press into the new pages for the day. Rinse repeat until the project is complete, then make the passes through as above.

Where I am going with this is that whatever your process, a story will invariably be picked over and through several times in an effort to make it the best thing it can be, to ensure it delivers as the writer intends. That’s okay. It will be worth it when the polished story sings.

  1. #1 by Penny on November 21, 2012 - 16:56

    Great insight Jeff, just got to apply it to my writing and tell my nasty internal editor to shut up.

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