I’m still on my mission to complete my A to Z Challenge theme, and I’m actually feeling like I’m finally in my home stretch.
And today, I’m writing about a biggie.
Writers all have to come to terms with this simple fact or we simply couldn’t function as writers.
First drafts almost never live up to the pictures we have in our minds.
(Unless we’re temporarily delusional.)
I wish I can say that it becomes better, but really, all that happens is we learn to expect that compared to our idea, the draft will suck. So we’re not as crushed when we find this when we re-read what we’ve written.
Why is this, though? Why don’t we just write the idea the way we have in our mind?
Well… For one thing, writing is hard. Don’t ever let someone tell you it isn’t. Furthermore, our minds have a way of making ideas look incredibly shiny, because along with just the basic idea, we also see how we expect it to look and feel in the end. But the truth is that this sense of perfection is an illusion.
It’s a nice illusion. It helps us be excited enough about our ideas to commit to the writing.
But as soon as words start appearing on paper, you’ll find you don’t have exactly the right words to get the feels across that you have. You’ll discover plot-holes you never considered (even if you did plot). You’ll discover that the characters simply refuse to act in the way that you need them to in order to bring your vision about.
Or you’ll get to the end and reread the whole thing, find that you got almost everything that you envisaged down and… it… just… sucks.
There’s not really all that much that you can do about it. The translation from idea to draft is never perfect, and there’s not much you can do to change this.
You can, however, change the way you see and react to the imperfection.
I think all writers come to terms with imperfection in various ways, but this is what I do:
1) When reading what I’ve written, I make note of flaws and weaknesses, but focus on the positives. No, no one’s rough draft sucks in its entirety. There’s always something worth keeping. Your job is to find that thing. And make note of all the things you need to change in order to improve your story.
2) Remember that it’s always better to have one sucky draft than a million good ideas. This might seem counter-intuitive, but an idea is worth very little until you have it written on paper. Especially because of our mind’s way of making things look shinier in our thoughts than in reality. Once the story is written, we can fix it no matter how bad it looks. (Even if it takes a rewrite.) But if you don’t ever write it, there’s nothing you can do to it.
So yes, be underwhelmed, but remember that a sucky first draft is just part of the process. And be glad that you’re underwhelmed, because it will help you in edits later.
How do you deal with first draft suckage? Are you struggling with first draft suckage at the moment?