I've been thinking about first drafts lately, which is interesting as two of my manuscripts are fully written and are presently undergoing edits. I think I'm on round four, but who's counting? Isn't it a labor of love?
Gosh, I loved creating those stories. How easy it was to let go and enjoy the process. And maybe, if I'm being honest, I'll admit how tedious I find editing, and how much I miss the "ah-ha" moments when a character suddenly jumps to life, or a plot point shifts into focus.
I've dedicated the past few years learning the craft of writing and I'm better for it. But when I tackle my next first draft, I'm coming at it from an old place. I'm rewinding time, going back to when I was a newbie writer and giving myself permission to do all these things wrong:
1) Telling, not showing. I'm letting the words flow, even if they are: She looked unhappy, or He was angry, because if there's one thing I've learned is you can not edit while drafting. You can fix those snags after the story is complete, but if you try to keep all those writing rules in your head as you draft, you're gonna drag yourself down.
2) Grammatical blunders. Yup I'm the comma queen. I like fragmented sentences and infinitives that are split. Passive is my voice. Who cares? Who is going to read that raw manuscript but you? And if you think any first draft is ready for publication, then I say more power to you. My first drafts are an embarrassment and won't ever see the light of day. Which leads me to number 3.
3) Let the first draft be an embarrassment. Let it be rough. Let the characters scream. Let the exclamation marks spill onto the page!!! Go as silly, as serious, as over-dramatized as you can. I find it harder to add tension later than to cut it back.
4) Lose track of your outline. I say this with some seriousness. I may write an outline. I may create character wheels and color-coded scene charts, but when I sit down to write that precious first draft, I'm gonna let the story unfold and take me where it wants. Some of my best plot twists were unplanned. Surprise the author, surprise the reader, right?
I'll leave you with a final rule. One I learned too late. One I wished I'd followed when I began writing. This you cannot break. Not now. Not ever. Ready?
5) Finish the damn thing before editing. I mean it. Please take my advice and save yourself hours of wasted effort. How can you possibly know what to change in the opening scenes until you've written the last chapter? How will you know, I ask? How?
I hope these "rules" help. Got any you'd like to add? I'd love to hear from you!