The first draft of anything is never anything anyone would want to read. It can be choppy. It can be rambling, repetitive or have other issues. But it’s the first draft. Getting it done is what counts. What you do with it after that is what is important. That’s the spirit of NaNoWriMo.
Writing the first draft is sometimes easy and sometimes it is hard. That applies to all writing, to be honest. The rough draft just gets the words down in one place. That’s its sole function. It’s the assembling of words to make the story. Words are our building blocks and they are what makes our stories work. The rough draft is the bare building. If it is a good one, we will have a good story. Well, after we paint the building, furnish it and decorate it the way we want it. That’s revision.
The rough draft is often not very pretty. Sometimes it is downright ugly. You will find rough patches where the story doesn’t quite work. That’s ok. That’s the process. Ignore the process and your building will fall. Brace it up. Slather on plaster. Do your best to make it as pretty as you can while you are writing it, but remember it is the first draft. Don’t obsess over finding the perfect words for a passage. Slap something down that makes sense – or doesn’t make sense, but lets you know what you want there – then fix it later.
That is what you get when you participate in NaNoWriMo. You get a rough draft. It is something that looks like a story but isn’t quite a tale yet. It is a sequence of ideas. It needs to be formed into something. I know I started with a building metaphor, but now I need something that fits better. A potter starts with a lump of clay. The first draft is the point after that. There’s something there, not quite formless, but nowhere near completion. You need a rough draft before you can make your story shine.
That’s all I’m saying here. A rough draft is just there. It doesn’t sparkle. It doesn’t make anyone feel any emotions, except the writer who sometimes looks at it in despair. That’s fine. Take that despair and use it as a polishing cloth. Smooth the rough parts. Keep the concept of the rough draft in mind while you write it. It’s just the rough draft. If you feel there is something wrong with it, don’t worry about it. Keep going. Finish it. Write as clean a rough draft as you can, but recognize that you will need to clean it more when you finish it. Just write it. Get it out of the way. Say what you want to say and finish the draft. You can fix the problems in revision. Your goal in writing the first draft is to string the ideas together into a story. Once you get that done, you can make it pretty. So sit down. Write your first draft and don’t think of the reader. Not yet, now is the time for writing. So do it.
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