BY SACHA HAMILTON
One of the most frustrating parts about writing is putting together a first draft. No matter whether it’s an anthology, a novel, a biography or an essay, your writing is going to require one and it’s easy to become discouraged if you don’t remind yourself of the role your early drafts play in your final work. That being said, let’s take a step back and examine why writing a first draft is the single most important step in your writing career.
In a perfect world, when an idea popped in our heads, it would already have the necessary elements to create the story. We would be able to sit down, write the book from beginning to end and have it be complete and coherent, with all the character arcs and climaxes intertwined around themes that logically propel the plot forward. And voila! The story would be successfully written.
Unfortunately, we know how imperfect the world really is and writing just isn’t completed this way.
Most first drafts are rough… in fact, they’re beyond rough. Chances are they’ll be rife with spelling errors, continuity problems or they may not make sense at all. And as a writer with universes bursting to get out, it can feel defeating to read back what you wrote after imagining the perfect story, especially if it’s not very good. This may be the point where you begin to consider if you should continue working on your story or just quit altogether and start fresh.
The thing to keep in mind is that first drafts play a valuable role in producing any kind of writing, especially a large manuscript. They’re meant to help you sort through your ideas and get them down on paper. Focusing on how “good” it is shouldn’t be your goal, because first drafts aren’t built with that in mind.
The endgame should be to focus solely on mapping out your thoughts and getting them down on paper (not to be confused with mapping out your story during brainstorming). Once you’ve crafted your first draft, going through the editing process will expose the holes within, and you’ll discover exactly what you need to fix in order to make your story stronger.
Benefits to having a first draft:
The flaws of your story become more pronounced
You are more likely to figure out your flat characters and how to fix them
Your story’s plot will become clearer
It will become far easier to highlight the holes and/or contradictions in your story
You can decipher which story elements and scenes don’t work
You will learn how your characters mesh within the story and how they interact with one another (many writers come up with characters that come alive as they write and learn about them in their first draft)
You can nail down a sequence, so your story has a logical, fluid pace and flow.
Take solace in the fact that first drafts are meant to be rough and no one ever has to read them except you. The editing process can always help you find the best version of your work, but you can’t edit an empty page. So always keep in mind that writing a first draft can help you organize your work and provide you with a clearer path to a much better finished product.