Finished another first draft of a new MS! I’m really excited about this one. I think the overall idea is strong and I like my characters. Of course, there are chapters I wrote thinking “This sucks,” but hey, it’s a first draft.
It’s become a habit of mine to read Stephen King’s On Writing once every couple of years or so. I finished it again a couple weeks ago and there were many things I had forgotten. While I do not agree with EVERYTHING in that book, there are many core ideas that have stuck with me. Regardless of where you are in your writing journey (just started, seven MS in Word, successful and published) I suggest reading this book.
When it comes to first drafts, there are a few things King suggests that I’ve heard other places and that I, through experience, have found to be true. Here’s a basic breakdown of how I handle first-drafts:
- Don’t. Edit.
- If you’re about to go back and check for spelling from the day before, stop. Just, stop. The most important thing right now is the story and your ideas. Get them out on paper before they fly away! It happens, they will run away if you don’t pay enough attention, like a toddler or an off-leash dog. Get those ideas on paper. You can spell check, edit, rearrange, etc. once the draft is done.
- Be Selfish
- Don’t share your book with anyone until after you have finished 2 drafts. It doesn’t need to be Publisher-Ready, but when a book is raw and unfinished, so are your ideas. As writers, no matter what we tell ourselves, we do want people to read our stuff and like it. Don’t let someone else’s ideas get in your head before your book is done! There is plenty of time for critique once the drafts are finished and all YOUR ideas are fleshed out.
- Murder Your Darlings
- (King’s words, can you tell?) Once the rough draft is done, let it sit for several weeks and don’t look at it. I know it hurts, but let it simmer. Come back when you’ve forgotten some of it. It makes it easier to trim the fat.
- The delete key is both satisfying and painful, but it’s incredibly important. Less than 1% of any writers’ first drafts are ready to be published. They need to be cut, re-formed, cut, smashed, molded, and written again. It’s a long process, and it’s an important one. Even if you really like that one chapter no one else does, if it really holds no value to the story, that delete key is your new bestie.
In my opinion, no matter how many drafts a book goes through, it is never done. Would I change some things in my published work The Healing Pool. Yes. Yes. YES. I don’t think I will ever feel finished with any of my books. There will always be something you will want to tinker with and change, but when those changes become smaller and smaller, it is time to get that work out into the world.