A friend of mine wrote to me recently about a book that he is trying to write. He told me that he is having some trouble with a few things. They were the usual concerns with plot and character development. However, one of his issues, he claimed, was so serious that it discouraged him from writing.
“It’s not coming out anywhere near as awesome as it is in my head,” he said.
Until a little while ago, I had been guilty of this as well.
For years, I had worked on the beginning of two stories that I desperately wanted to write. I had them set up so exact in my mind that all I needed to do was transcribe it onto my computer.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, it never came out as perfectly as I wanted. All I accomplished was writing those first chapters over and over again. And, eventually, I gave up.
Since then, while I haven’t gotten back to those stories (which I still hope to do), my perspective on writing has changed dramatically. So when my friend wrote that things didn’t come out as good as they were in his head, my response was simple:
“Of course not!”
Our stories rarely sound as good as the plans we have for them. Sentences sometimes lack the best description. Characters might be underdeveloped. Plots might mix and mingle and, when all is said and done, make very little sense.
That’s the reality of writing and part of the process.
It’s also the point of a first draft.
No one should expect to produce the perfect story on their first try. To be honest, I’m not even sure that such a thing is possible. Novels take a great deal of editing and proof-reading before they’re ready for publication. Some even take years and the help of a large team to get them there.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
So once the first draft is finished, check for mistakes and inconsistencies, fix up dull sounding sentences, add description or take it away, and look further into the plot to figure out if you like the direction your story has taken or if there might be something better you can do to it.
But not before.
Now, that being said, it doesn’t mean that you should keep pushing on if the story isn’t speaking to you (as I recently discovered for myself), only that you should take your first draft with an incredibly large grain of salt.
Give youself a chance to see where your story takes you. You may actually love the directions in which your characters go.
And, if not, you can always try something different.
Ultimately, aside from making the time to sit down to write, I think that there should be very little pressure placed on writing the first draft. Simply get the story out there.
After all, to me, the most important thing is getting the words onto the page.
So try to keep the self-criticism to a minimum the next time you write, because it probably won’t make you a better writer. If anything, it might stop you from being one.