Thursday, June 20, 2013

A first draft is just the beginning. In a way, that’s liberating

It should go without saying but I think I’ll say it anyway. Revision is more important than drafting. Nothing wrong with NANO or any other method or deadline that helps the writer push through a first draft. My own process is to write a first draft as quickly as possible. Just get it done. Just finish. But here’s the thing—I push through knowing it’s going to be, well, basically, crap. 99.999999999999999999999999999999% of the time it is crap for me and most writers. (That’s a percentage arrived at after careful mathematical evaluation of absolutely no data—in case you were wondering.)

I’ve heard agents call December the cruelest month because people who do NANO finish their novels and send their masterpieces into agents. And naturally they are bad, no terrible, and agents get hundreds of ridiculously bad manuscripts because novice writers have written a draft of a novel and think they’re done.
NO. It just doesn't work that way for 99.99999999999999999999999% (or thereabouts) of us.

A first draft is just the beginning.  In a way, that’s liberating. You don’t have to get it right. You won’t get it right. You know this. You allow yourself to write on through the fog, the forest, the wasteland—whatever you want to call it. You accept there will be wrong turns and missteps and that acceptance helps you push through the very humbling experience of writing a first draft.

Revision, really re-seeing the novel in the first few revisions, and then revising language and re-seeing again and going through for particular problems and tightening characters and doing whatever you need to do over the next five or six versions of the novel—or however many it takes—is what shapes that rough draft into something that isn’t rough.

That’s how, in my humble opinion, a novel comes into being. It’s built and rebuilt and rebuilt. 

No comments: