You’re working on the first draft of your book. It isn’t easy, at all, and you’re probably lost at sea (at some point) and wondering how to get the ship back on track. Or maybe you’ve finished your first draft and revisions stare you down like a monster. See, the first draft is crucial. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even good, so long as it exists. Many writers get caught up in the first draft, too caught up, to the point they can’t progress. I know finishing a first draft is hard, but this post is to remind you of six things your first draft isn’t. Take a look, take a breath, and keep going.
Your first draft is not perfect. Stop trying to make it so. Actually, no book is perfect. Nope, not even the NYT bestseller in the Books A Million display. Your first draft is the worst your novel will ever be, so embrace that, and stop trying to nitpick everything. That comes later, but not yet. You just need to finish it. That’s all the first draft has to be: finished. I struggle with perfectionism, but I strongly encourage you to exercise creativity during the first draft, not perfectionism!
Your first draft does not have to be coherent! It doesn’t have to even be in chronological order. A character’s name can change halfway through, a plot point can be shifted, you name it, you do it. You’re in charge of finishing the manuscript. Don’t let fear of making sense get in your way. Keep writing till it is finished–you can make it coherent later. Nothing in the first stage is final, so enjoy yourself.
A BUNCH OF NUMBERS
Do not worry about word counts and page numbers when you’re working on the first draft. Focus on the heart of the story, focus on the themes that are close to you, focus on the characters and how they act. The first draft is the creative process and that process is often messy. Don’t block it all up with numbers and expectations. Your first draft can be an size it wants to be. Don’t stress it. My first drafts often vary in size compared to the final manuscript.
If you struggle with the fear that no one will like your book, or maybe people might even hate it, don’t. This is your first draft. It isn’t going to be good. And, anyway, I have read books, rated them 5 stars and cried over them, but when I check Goodreads reviews, I can find lots of dislike for them! Why? Because people’s personal tastes aren’t all the same. So don’t let fear of rejection stop you from finishing your first draft. Every writer faces rejection (yep, even your favorite ones!) and it does not make or break you. Rejection does not make your book terrible. Someone will probably dislike your book, but that doesn’t matter. Your book will help someone. Even if just one person is moved by your book, isn’t that enough? Buckle down and figure out why you’re writing. Take heart that you will make a difference!
Your first draft is not someone else’s published novel. Comparison kills when it comes to a first draft. Sure, you can be inspired! If you like a theme or something from a novel or a TV show, be inspired. But don’t quench your story, your heart, or your goals with someone else’s. Your first draft, and I cannot stress this enough, is your time to be creative. Don’t kill that fire by comparing your unfinished book to someone’s final product. It simply isn’t worth it. Being inspired and comparing unhealthily are not the same.
You have a voice. A story to share. Your words mean something. First drafts are all of the things above and they are also not pointless. Don’t feel discouraged. Your novel is needed. It has a point in the world. Your voice matters. The creative process can be a tough thing to navigate, but there’s reason for the madness. Never quit. Someone needs your book, how you tell it, how you wrote it.
I hope this post helped you, and feel free to send it to someone who might be starting their first ever draft or is struggling through revisions. (Me, I’m struggling through a rewrite, and it’s not as easy as I thought it’d be, please send chocolate and coffee. Or hugs. Or a machete.) If you guys are interested in seeing my creative process for my fantasy novel, GOLGATHA, let me know in the comments!
Angela R. Watts