When I sit down to write a rough draft various thoughts run through my head. My initial response is to get up from my desk and take care of some suddenly very important chore like scrubbing the toilets or organizing boxes of nails in the basement. The act of sitting through a rough draft is painful. It’s like watching a bad movie except worse because I know my words are the cause. Yet, the first draft, the ugly draft, the (Fill in expletive of choice here) is so important. A first draft is the magic for the rest of the work.
I remember I had a very hard time writing a book length manuscript. I would start with energy, but soon into the first ten or twenty pages, I would find myself wanting to jump back and revise the beginning. I would change the first paragraph over and over—obsessing over every word.
One year at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference, a presenter recommended that we resist the temptation to revise until a first draft was completed. A light went on! Or, more accurately, I had a “Well, duh!” moment. Hadn’t I been teaching my students to write the first drafts of their essays first before they began revising? Why hadn’t I followed the same rules?
Soon, I was writing longer works.
Looking back over the past eight years or so that I have been working on novels, I can say that writing my first drafts have been some of my best memories. Sitting at my little desk with the midsummer late night sunsets or winter dark outside the window, I made magic. Characters came to life. Stories grew. Of course, it wasn’t always perfect. Sometimes sentences would pass from my fingers and I would cringe at the trite language, the worn imagery. But I pushed through and created drafts. From there, I could move on. The process is like a journey and no journey has been the same.