The First Draft Of Anything...

Ernest Hemingway was known for many things: his writing, his adventuring, and also his frank nature. This frankness made its way out into a series of memorable quotes. One of which has been a personal favorite of mine for years:

The first draft of anything is shit.

As storytellers, we aim to write breath-taking prose, words that lift and amaze readers. We write, scribble, type, record, and scratch out content for the purpose of dazzling the masses or simply just to get a story out we've been dying to share with whomever will sit still long enough to listen. But first we must write it. First we must put words on paper before reaching the end game. And 99% of the time, these words that tingled our imaginations will stumble out and clutter up the page.

These words won't be pretty. They won't shine like the sun. They will be short. They will be stubby. They will ramble on without any idea of where they are heading. It's discouraging. It's painful at times but it's a reality. That first draft will stink in places and make us wonder what the hell we were thinking when we started bullshitting ourselves into believing that we could write. Little devils will play tricks on us and sap our will to explore and create.

Hemingway was absolutely right. That first draft will be a mad jumbled tale we dreamt about, spewed out on a table in a vomitus clump. But once we start picking through the pile, the remains, we start to see our diamond in the rough. Deep within the scribblings lay a story that kept us up at night. One that had us jotting notes on the back of a grocery store receipt. Had us muttering details of non-existent places while sitting in the bathroom hunting for relief.

So, once we've started poking through that first draft, cleaning up the excessive verbiage and run-on sentences; clearing out the typos and misspellings; reordering the content to work in a steep climb that peaks and flows until we hit the summit and start a rapid decent towards hell, we are in essence... polishing a turd?

This notion hit me as I was working my way into the first draft of my second novel. After spending so much time cleaning up the first book I found my current writing to be flat. I was missing keys elements in the opening scene. I didn't hit the right sensory details. It was shit. It is the first draft.

We can't measure our first drafts against finished works. It's totally unfair and kills the muse. That Infernal Editor within us wants to slow us down and take control of the project but he needs to stuff a doughnut in is mouth and shut it! Anytime we sit at our keyboards and start cranking out the first tethers of a long, braided thread we hope to pull so many readers along with, we need to be aware that it's going to plain suck the first go around. We need to have faith that when it's complete we have a substantive piece of work that can be finely chiseled into an engaging narrative work for many to enjoy. That first draft was just the beginning of something sweet and wonderful. Don't be afraid to misspell words or repeat certain subjects and phrases. Don't listen to the Infernal Editor. Tell your tale. Draft your shit then clean it up and make it shine.

Again, I say this to help quiet my editor and hopefully to any other storytellers who may read this. Have faith in your craft. And have fun weaving your tale. Don't slow down. Don't worry about the finer details until you type the words "The End". Only then can you let out that sigh of relief and start on phase two of your project.

Pour a couple of stiff drinks. Set one aside for Ernest. Indulge a little and pay homage to his wisdom. Write your tale. Sure, first time around it will stink on ice. They all will but it's only the first draft. It's the beginning... to a grand adventure.


Popular Posts