Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wringing Out the First Draft

I hope you all saw the video clip of Ray Bradbury talking about writing persistently. (see Peter May’s post below) I have just begun a new book as well. The preliminary research and planning stages are over and now I’m in that apply-glue-to-rear-end-and-sit-down-in-front-of-computer-whether-you-like-it-or-not stage. Wringing out the first draft.

I discovered several books ago that if I’m going to be able to power through the pain of a first draft, I have to set myself a rigid writing schedule. This is difficult for me, since I’m not by nature a disciplined person. I don’t enjoy forcing myself to put words on the page, whether I’m feeling inspired at that moment or not. I’m always anxious and unhappy for much of a first draft. Why, I ask myself, isn’t this better? It seemed like such a good idea when it was still in my head.

The real trick of writing good fiction is the ability to find and apply the perfect words to evoke just the right picture in the reader’s mind, to elicit an emotion or a mood, or state of mind. Language is your instrument and you have to compose the best combination of notes, timing, and delivery you’re capable of. Anyone who’s tried it knows just how hard that is. It’s so difficult that one draft doesn’t cut it. You have to try again, and again.

Why do I put myself through it? I’m never sure I can pull it off, no matter how many times I’ve pulled it off before. But then there are those days, even while you’re struggling with the first draft, when you do hit the perfect note, or compose a passage so beautiful it brings tears to your eyes, like Bradbury’s tale of the girl on the beach. Bradbury spoke truth when he said that real success comes when you begin to write from the inside, and not from the outside.

Besides, once the first draft is finished and you’re on to the second and third and however many more, world without end, it all starts to come together and you realize with a start that you’ve got something. Maybe that old mojo is working after all!


Hannah Dennison said...

I loathe writing the first draft. I too, am at the beginning of not just a new book, but a new series with a new set of characters. I am so miserable - so your post has actually cheered me up. I am not alone!
Now - I must go and organize my spice cupboard.

Donis Casey said...

I get more housework done when I have a book to write...

peter_may said...

My first draft is my last and only draft. I couldn't bear all that re-writing. I reckon if I don't get it right first time I never will. Which is not to say that there isn't a polishing process!

Donis Casey said...

Well, I have to admit that I don't buy into the cliche that everyone's first draft is always crap, but mine always contains some crap and almost always needs rearranging and quite a bit of polishing