Freedom of the first draft

Current word count: 23,075

New words written: 487

Words til goal: 16,925 / 412 words a day til the end of September

Today was the first day in my work on my new novel that the words stumbled a bit. I made my goal, which is great, but I know this chapter is one that will definitely need work when I get to the revision stage.

I said in my Getting creative blog post a couple days ago that if something doesn’t work right now, that’s ok, because it can be fixed in the revision stage, and a commenter, OwlandSparrow described that as “freedom.” I love that! I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but it’s a great way of putting it. The first draft is about freedom, the freedom to explore the story, the characters, the action, the dialog, etc.

A lot of writers begin each writing session by going through what they did in the last session and editing it, to get the story back in their heads. I used to do this, after hearing it described as a useful tool at a seminar, but after a while, in my limited writing time, I found myself editing more than I was writing, so I stopped. Now I just move on.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Lots of people use this method of writing and love it, and if it works for you, that’s great. Don’t change a thing. I think it’s especially useful if you aren’t writing every day. If I miss a day, I often have to go back so I can get into the flow of the story again. But for me, I try not to read with an editor’s eye, just with the story in mind.

The first draft of a story is about learning, experimenting, exploring; it’s about a journey and finding the path from the story’s beginning to the end, as circuitous that path might be — the direct line isn’t necessarily the best at this point.

It reminds me of something my old theater teacher in college told me, that when exploring a role, I need to try it the most outrageous way I can think of and then the most subtle — the full range — then, I can find the place in the middle that works best to tell the character’s story. In our first draft, we can be as outrageous as possible without worrying about whether it’s great writing. Then later — in our revision — we can scale it back to just the right place, and make the writing brilliant.

After spending months and months and months revising my first novel, I’m really enjoying being back on a first draft, enjoying the freedom of whatever goes.

What are you enjoying today?

Write On!

P.S. Here’s something else I’m enjoying today. My husband sent me this video and I thought it was just so much fun, I wanted to share. Enjoy!


3 Responses

  1. Great post! I do the write-without-looking-back-to-edit thing, too. I’ve always been such an outline freak on everything else in my life, and also a perfectionist…I learned to throw both of those things out the window when I wrote my first draft. It worked much better (for me) that way, to have freedom from my own expectations and just write.

    Thanks for including my comment, by the way. 🙂 Good luck on your draft!

  2. Brit says:

    Great post! I used to struggle and want to get each line “Final Draft Proof” before moving on. I got no where. I had a writing friend tell me, “Keep Moving Forward”. . . so I did. I’m 55+K words now and while I have revisions to do, I’m much farther than ever possible if I sat there wanting it to be perfect. So yes, first draft is about freedom.

  3. OwlandSparrow, I do tend to outline my whole story, or at least the next few plot points that I know are coming, so I know where the characters are heading in the story. I find that helps, but it’s basically, just a sentence or two. The rest, the details and the how, why, where, etc., is filled in as I write.

    Brit, I was exactly the same. For me it was my husband who kept saying, “Finish it!” every time I told him about my latest change to the first few chapters.

    Good writing to you both!

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