The First Draft Is The Worst Draft

Hello everyone, Flobo here! (As always)

Today I want to talk to you about something that I’m sure you’ve heard (or read or seen) people talk about when discussing writing/music/drawing/any creative endeavor. That is, revision!

Most amateur writers don’t do it enough and most amateur writing bloggers talk about it ad nauseum. You know, somebody blogs about how it’s important to the writing process? Well, if you didn’t know that (or worse, you thought your stuff was soooo good the first time) then maybe there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

It's a hundred bucks. But for you? A hundred bucks.

If you’re like me, you know that after you finish a manuscript draft, you are going to have to go back into it at some point. At the same time, I am as motivated to do that as much I am motivated to clean my room when I know no one is coming over. Let me tell you, as a bachelor, that’s not a lot. When I was film school, nose deep in the nearest Avid Media Composer (film editing) terminal, my Editing Teacher would say “Remember, the first cut is the worst cut.” I’ve appropriated that to my creative works wholesale. There are some tricks I come up with to help motivate me into the editing phase of writing, and I want to share some of them with you:

1. What’s the rush? I’m assuming most of you are independent writers so you don’t have the big bad corporate imprint inflicting you with due dates, so take your time.  The last thing you want (at the most basic level) is to finish a manuscript only to be utterly mortified when you notice spelling errors later on. Oh, and from my experience never rely on just one person to read your work either. It’s okay to make mistakes in the drafting stages, so milk that for as long as possible. It’s a luxury that some careers do not have.

Did somebody order a massage?

2. Go Old School. When I’m writing more long form stuff (like my novels), I almost always HAND-WRITE the first draft. People think I’m nuts and I sometimes agree, however the best part of doing that is that it FORCES you to write a second draft when you transcribe your work to a computer. We tend to type a sentence at a time, so for me it’s a cool way to see what phrasing works and what doesn’t.

3. Reeemixxx! This past year I was trying to write a novel in the YA mold about a superhero (long story short [quite literately], it’s going to be  short story, now). Anyway, I loved the character, but hated his backstory. I can make a blog about how sometimes backstories write themselves but that’s for another time. So I was kind of stuck of where I wanted to take the character. My solution? I put that story down, and I pretended I was commissioned to write “the sequel”.  This way, I could start a brand new adventure, and only refer to the character’s backstory as necessary. This is really effective across a lot of things I’ve written. Leaving the original story you’ve written in favor for a virtual “prequel/sequel/spinoff/alternate POV” can be heartbreaking, but it’s the first step to streamlining your storytelling skills. I found this tactic also works with serial killer characters. Going through a book about how a serial killer became one could be fascinating, or it could be needlessly dull. A book that has the serial killer in the forefront with sprinklings of backstory could help free up your manuscript for other things.

4. Hire Yourself. This one requires a lot of self-discipline and I wouldn’t recommend you doing it all the time, but sometimes a quick swift kick to the pants is what you need. Take away things that matter most to you and only return them until you write a certain amount a day.  For me, I either unplug the Internet from my computer, or refuse to go out to eat until the work at hand is done. This method is also gimmicky, as it seems that this tip would appear on any ‘ol “beat writer’s block blog” but it is in my bag of tricks.

Or quiver of trick arrows.

As always, keep writing. Remember,  “The first draft is the worst draft.”

As for the superhero story goes, if there’s interest, I can go into more detail of the trials and tribulations with that. Let’s just say the whole thing has reminded me of the Transporter series in that an awesome character is being saddled with a story that needs tweaking.

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