After Nanowrimo 2007 I was about ready to throw the entire concept of Light all over again. What kept me from it? Probably most of my friends telling me to just keep writing as well as my inner compulsion to just get on with it without looking back, without editing what I have; to just keep on writing.
Since then I’ve though a lot about the functions of the first draft of a book and today this post on Don’s blog made me write some of those thoughts down.
I think the most important part (and thanks to Sirayn for vehemently reinforcing that) is to simply keep writing. The first draft of a novel is just that: a first attempt to write a book in the best way possible. In my case it’s often very spontaneous, probably since I don’t do very detailed outlines.
I have a general idea about what is going to happen and the details just add to the story as it keeps coming.
Of course there are some things that need to be cut, shortened or just plain canned after finishing the first draft, but that’s part of the editing.
A first draft will never be perfect.
It’ll always need to be edited, because you usually need some time to realize that some things that you’ve wrote may just not fit into your story as you want to write it or simply make it go into the wrong direction. Scenes like that however can always be altered later.
Your first draft isn’t aimed at perfection, it’s aimed at getting the story on paper (or into the laptop ;)).
Right now I’m at about 63,000 words and I already know that the beginning needs to be altered and cut in all kinds of ways, but actually knowing that doesn’t necessarily hinder my writing. It actually helps me to focus more on things I know I have to improve. The beginning can always be adjusted later so it fits in.
It’s important to keep the ideas and the writing coming.
Another thing that I noticed is that many writers get way too caught up in all kinds of theories and formal guidelines that they use when structuring their plot.
Don’t get me wrong, for some people things like that probably helps, but personally I’d always say focus on your writing first and save the formalism for your editing. Once you have your story written down, you have more than enough time to worry about structural elements. Of course you should keep general things like your form of narrative, character PoV, emotion, exposition, climax etc in mind, but then again you can always go back and improve your novel with those objectives in mind. One thing I try to do while I’m writing is to write down what I think I can improve or need to adjust to make the story work as a complete work and then go back to those notes to include them in my editing.
For now, I have a huge gap between chapters 12 and 13 and also need to adjust the narrative in 13-15 to make it fit in with the rest, but instead of going back and doing that, I’d rather finish the first draft and then focus on things like that in the editing phase.
Right now my goal is to keep on writing, a couple thousand of words a week, so my first draft will be finished in a few months and I can start with the editing process, which doubtlessly will consume much more time than the first draft. But all that is something I’ll worry about when it comes. Until then I’ll focus solely on my writing, even if that entails ignoring techniques and structural elements.
Just keep it coming.