So, we have some exciting news! A couple of weeks ago, I finished the first draft for this project. That’s an enormous milestone, and whenever you get to this stage, it is so important to congratulate yourself because the work has been put in and you’ve got a draft that is recognisable for all that completed work and effort and commitment.
Yes, it’s inconsistent, and I made decisions on the go that made earlier decisions and chapters redundant, and there are plenty of chapters written in brackets meaning they aren’t fully written, and it’s sitting at 64,372 words, which is a fraction of what I think it will be in a completed edition, but it’s done.
I’ve said it before, a first draft is meant to be inconsistent and messy, it’s supposed to be imperfect and needing work, and that doesn’t upset or daunt me whatsoever. I look back at the first few chapters and it makes me smile to see these aspects that will need cutting completely or lines of dialogue that no longer seem to fit a character who has evolved into something new during the process of writing across months and months. I see an inconsistent draft, and I’m pleased because it means there’s something there to edit. Yes, there are sections that needed bulking out, and a couple of chapters do sit only in brackets, but the majority needs to be strengthened and rewritten, not written from scratch.
I’ve highlighted in a post for Project #2 that I like to leave drafts for a little while before coming back to them as I do think that’s the healthiest, safest, and best way to write. How long you leave it is up to you as a writer, what stage you’re at, what draft you’re in, it’s different for every writer and every story. Because this draft is quite loose and it is only the first, I don’t intend on leaving it for too long, a few weeks, a month or two at most.
There have been some structural changes as I’ve gone on, so I want to spend some of this time, as the micro sits and stews, to go back in and see what I’m doing with the structure, maybe move some aspects around, cut some sections, add some others, all in terms of planning. As I let this sit, I won’t go in and edit the actual story yet, I want to adjust things outside, in the macro, make structural changes and other edits in the plans and plot summaries and outlines, making it more cohesive and a stronger piece of storytelling.
I think there are definitely people out there who see a first draft as embarrassing, as something to hide until you have it more refined, until it’s something that’s stronger and better. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll read through a first draft and I will cringe at some of the language, the typos, the repeated lines that somehow turn up in four different paragraphs in one chapter. I think it’s only natural to see something you’ve written that may be incoherent, weak, and poorly structured, and never want it to see the light of day.
But I kind of love that. Is that strange to say? I’m not sure. I honestly just believe there is something charming and humbling about seeing a typo or a phrase that sounds childlike in its imagery. When you see something you think is weak, that means you know it needs strengthening, right? And that shows progress, doesn’t it?
I’m inclined to simply writing and not going back until I’m properly editing the whole thing. That means, when I am writing, I will fully acknowledge that a sentence I’ve just typed is horrendous, but I’ll let it be until I come back through. That acknowledgement means you are a strong writer, or, at least, that you can be one. If you are able to see that something you’ve written could be strengthened, even if you don’t strengthen it in that very moment or you need to leave it a few months until you can find some way to strengthen it, that means you’re constantly improving, that you’re always working towards being a stronger, better writer.
So I don’t shy away from admitting that early drafts are weak and inconsistent, that they need hours of work and a steady use of a dictionary and thesaurus. There’s no shame in admitting, to begin with, whatever you’ve written is imperfect and inadequate, even if it has taken months or years to get to a first draft. It’s still something to be proud of, because you have put in the time, and you also know that it needs to be improved, which means you know you’re going to improve it and, thus, that you are capable of improving it. Being a writer includes acknowledging weaknesses and imperfections so that you can work on them, and that also means acknowledging that your early drafts need restructuring or redrafting so they can be made stronger.
It will still take a lot of time to make this a stronger draft. There is no such thing as perfect art, so aiming for perfection is entirely the wrong aspiration. Instead, what I’ll be working on, when I come back around to writing a second draft for Project #1, is strengthening it. Even after a second draft, perhaps a third, fourth, tenth, twentieth, it still might not be its strongest edition. But with each draft, with each hour funnelled into research or rewriting, each acknowledgement that a better word could be used or that a different phrase would be more powerful, it’s being strengthened, and I think that’s rewarding because it also gives you an awareness that, as a writer, you’re being strengthened too.
After a short break, I’m excited to go back in and start working on this next draft so I can strengthen it with every moment I’m able to give it.